A prominent far-right YouTuber who calls for a white “ethnostate” and makes videos with Richard Spencer is accused of luring and attempting to impregnate a developmentally disabled Hispanic teenager while lawyers contested his U.S. immigration status.
This comes amid a separate legal battle with his wife, who accused him of trying to kidnap their infant to Canada.
Jean-Francois Gariepy is a fast-rising fixture in white-nationalist circles. A former neuroscience researcher at Duke University who left suddenly in 2015, Gariepy now makes videos attempting to prove white superiority, calling for all-white separatist states and a crackdown on immigration. White nationalist Richard Spencer recently appeared with him on a livestream.
Gariepy, a Canadian citizen, also stands accused in two court cases of a pattern of bizarre and abusive behavior toward women—allegations he denied in an interview with The Daily Beast.
A child-custody case with his third wife includes allegations that Gariepy engaged in misconduct with an undergraduate he supervised at Duke. Gariepy’s wife won sole custody of their newborn after presenting evidence that Gariepy had threatened to abduct the baby to Canada while his visa was dependent on their marriage.
While that case was ongoing, Gariepy lost a guardianship dispute over an autistic 19-year-old whom a counselor assessed as having “the social and mental maturity of a 10- or 11-year-old child.” Gariepy, who met the young woman online and entered into a sexual relationship with her, claimed in court that the young woman was his pregnant fiancée, although blood tests revealed that she was not pregnant.
In an interview, Gariepy denied allegations that he had acted improperly and that he had attempted to marry or impregnate women for U.S. immigration purposes, calling the allegations a smear campaign by “leftist women.”
But court records in the guardianship and custody cases suggest a long history of conflict with women.
Gariepy, 34, grew up in suburban Montreal, which he described to a court-appointed psychologist as “like paradise.” He said he spent his childhood surrounded by relatives in a village “dominated by our families.” “I didn’t know disharmony until I met other women at 18-19 [years old],” he said, according to the psychologist’s report included in his custody case against his third wife.
He married his first wife at 18, and divorced at 23. “I wanted a family and she wasn’t into it,” he told the court-appointed psychologist. “She left—she lost interest in me. Also I didn’t know how to satisfy a woman and I was getting fat.” A second marriage, which he claimed was to a woman who was French and “needed to get into Canada,” also failed, he told the psychologist.
He later left Canada to take a series of research positions at U.S. colleges before settling into an associate research role in Duke’s neuroscience department in September 2011, as the university confirmed to The Daily Beast. In a viral Facebook post in September 2015, Gariepy announced he’d quit Duke because he’d grown disillusioned with the academic community. The post earned him a write-up in Slate.
But Gariepy’s motives for quitting came into question during the custody dispute. After Gariepy’s viral Facebook post, one of his former Duke colleagues contacted his third wife, whom he had married earlier that year. The former colleague “contacted her after the Facebook posting, [and said] that Dr. Gariepy was not asked to return to his postdoctoral position and that he had a sexually inappropriate relationship with one of the undergraduate lab assistants,” according to court records filed on Gariepy’s wife’s behalf.
The undergraduate student confirmed the relationship to a private investigator hired by Gariepy’s wife, according to court documents. While they were in a relationship, she told the investigator, Gariepy was her mentor or supervisor at their lab. During their relationship from January until June 2014, Gariepy wanted her to have his child, she told the investigator, according to a sworn affidavit he entered in court. Gariepy “discussed how he would be a stay-at-home father and provide the child all the caring needs for the child,” according to the investigator’s affidavit.
The undergraduate lab assistant told the investigator that she decided against Gariepy’s plan, and that the relationship ended with her “suffering from emotional abuse on the part of” Gariepy.
Gariepy told The Daily Beast that their relationship had been consensual, and that the student had disclosed it to Duke University. “There has never been an investigation against me at Duke for being in a relationship with this woman,” he said.
A representative for Duke University confirmed that Gariepy had worked at the university until August 2015, the month before he publicly announced his departure. The school declined to comment on allegations that Gariepy had left as a result of sexual misconduct. “As a matter of policy, the university does not comment on personnel matters beyond confirming employment status,” the university representative said in an email.
Gariepy’s viral Facebook post cited another reason for quitting: “I will soon be a father and want to be spending time with my son at home.”
But that cozy claim was also up for debate. Gariepy and his third wife had separated two months earlier, in July, after fewer than six months of marriage. In a custody case that began the day after their son’s December 2015 birth, Gariepy’s third wife accused him of emotional abuse throughout the pregnancy, and of threatening to abduct their child to his native Canada.
Both Gariepy’s wife and the court expressed concern over Gariepy’s immigration status.
“The defendant is a citizen of Canada and currently in the United States under a conditional visa based upon his marriage to the plaintiff,” his wife claimed in court documents. “Said visa is conditional and up for review by U.S. Immigration in July 2016.” In a finding of facts in November 2016, the court wrote that the visa was pending review.
Gariepy contradicted the court’s finding to The Daily Beast, claiming he had a green card through his new marriage, but that he’s since abandoned it to move back to Canada. “The reality is once I married my ex-wife I was a permanent resident,” he said, claiming he could have become a citizen.
A green card, or permanent residency, is not immediately conferred upon an immigrant who marries a U.S. citizen. The process requires an application, which includes an in-person interview with both partners. If the green card is approved, and the marriage is less than two years old, the immigrant receives a “conditional” green card, which expires in two years unless both couples reapply, or the couple married “in good faith” but later divorced.
In a February 2016 finding of facts, the court specifically noted that Gariepy’s visa was pending review “to assure that his marriage isn’t fraudulent.” Gariepy also told The Daily Beast that, prior to his marriage, he had been on a “J-1 visiting scholar visa. I did five years on that.” J-1 visas are short-term and tied to a recipient’s work. After a J-1 recipient completes their program, they must leave the country or obtain another form of documentation.
In an interview with a court-appointed psychologist, Gariepy also claimed to have pursued marriage and a child for immigration purposes. The relationship “was fast because of her age—she’s older than me,” Gariepy said, according to the psychologist’s report included in court documents. “Other pressures—I’m an immigrant. It was all or nothing—marriage and a baby or I couldn’t stay in the U.S.”
Gariepy claimed the statements were taken out of context. “I explained that to my ex-wife, either you are interested in me and having a family with me or the U.S. will kick me out after my legal five years of residence,” he told The Daily Beast. “That was merely me explaining to my ex-wife this reality.”
Shortly into the pregnancy, the relationship grew volatile, both parties agreed. Gariepy claimed in court records that his wife grew “very aggressive—she wasn’t interested in me anymore.” But his wife alleged a pattern of increasingly strange behaviors. Gariepy started making audio recordings of her to “build a case” and posting them to a family planning website, she said in court documents. She claimed Gariepy became controlling, and refused to talk to a therapist, allegedly telling her, “I am the sanest person I know.”
Five months after their marriage, Gariepy’s wife moved out of their apartment—at which point, she claimed, he began demanding that she put his name on the lease for immigration purposes, and help him apply for a green card. She claimed she agreed to attend an interview, if he would sign separation documents. During the interview, an immigrations officer questioned her separately and asked if Gariepy was pressuring her into a green card, she claimed. She said she told the officer it was important for Gariepy to remain in the country for their child’s sake. But after the interview, she claimed, Gariepy refused to sign the separation documents.
After moving out, she claimed a neighbor called her to report that police were removing weapons from the couple’s formerly shared apartment. Gariepy later told her in an email that he had asked the sheriff’s department to remove the weapons because he did not “want anyone to feel unsafe or to make false accusations about abuse,” his wife said he wrote. Police were so alarmed by Gariepy’s request to remove the weapons, that an officer with the domestic-violence unit called his wife to ask about her safety, she claimed.
But the couple’s biggest fights were over the fate of their unborn child. Gariepy said he could deliver the child at home and raise it because of his experience working with monkeys in research labs, his wife claimed in court documents. He also allegedly pressured his wife to give the child a Canadian passport, and threatened to take the child away to Canada. When the couple’s relationship soured further, Gariepy wrote on medical intake forms that he would not comply with doctors’ orders “that would keep [him] from transporting my child to my home,” his wife claimed. He then allegedly visited multiple local OBGYN practices and accused them of discrimination when they would not treat him, going so far as to threaten a lawsuit against Duke hospital.
Gariepy claimed in court documents that he was trying to meet with an OBGYN for information on a sleep aid he claimed his wife was using.
The month before the child’s birth, a producer with the Dr. Phil show contacted Gariepy’s wife’s lawyer twice, she claimed. Gariepy had allegedly asked to be on the show to “publicly address the campaign of false allegations against him.”
Following the advice of police and hospital security, Gariepy’s wife gave birth under an alias in an undisclosed hospital, and filed for custody the day after the child’s birth, she claimed. A judge awarded her full custody, which Gariepy appealed. In proceeding with the appeal, the judge recommended Gariepy undergo a psychological evaluation.
The psychologist found Gariepy to be “very bright, intellectually,” but said he showed a lack of insight and impulse control, a “sense of being treated unfairly, or victimized,” and displayed distorted thoughts suggesting “overt psychosis.”
The appeal is ongoing. Since the child’s birth, Gariepy has railed against his wife in YouTube videos, which are now included in the court record. When someone disliked one of the videos, Gariepy posted a link to it, ordering his fans “to find the person who disliked the video and make his/her life more burdensome by reminding him politely how terrible of a human being he/she is,” court records note.
Gariepy told The Daily Beast he was joking. “I do dark humor, and, yes, some of that dark humor was brought into the custody trial, as if the fact that I do jokes on the public space about race or rape would make me an unfit father,” he said. In one of his 2017 videos, Gariepy claimed courts should not be able to use a person’s public statements against them in a custody battle and that “that is a problem a white ethnostate could solve.”
But while Gariepy was fighting his wife for custody, he was also courting a 19-year-old with autism. The teenager, who lived in Texas, had “the social and mental maturity of a 10 or 11-year-old child,” according to a counselor’s assessment included in court records.
People with autism spectrum disorder might experience difficulty with communication or interpersonal relationships, although symptoms vary broadly. The young woman had graduated high school and could drive, but could not make financial decisions, consent to marriage, or attend to daily activities like bathing or dressing without support or reminders from her mother, according to a psychologist’s evaluation included in court records.
Gariepy claimed to The Daily Beast the young woman had a communicative disorder, but that she could consent to having a child. “Her intelligence and her capacity for making decisions, it’s actually higher probably than the average 19-year-old woman,” he said.
She “prefers to be on her own and spends a lot of time on the computer,” the psychologist wrote. She came across Gariepy while listening to his appearance on a podcast by the Drunken Peasants, the show where alt-right personality Milo Yiannopoulos infamously made comments appearing to defend pedophilia. In August or September 2015, when Gariepy was fighting issues of custody and immigration with his then-pregnant wife, he and the teenager began talking online. Gariepy claimed they later pledged loyalty to each other without having met.
“We’ve been promising loyalty to each other since January 2016,” Gariepy testified in court, according to transcripts.
On July 10, 2016, the teenager drove to North Carolina to meet Gariepy, she told the psychologist. She and Gariepy had sex—her first intimate experience. She claimed Gariepy wanted to impregnate her and be a “stay-at-home dad.” She told the psychologist that Gariepy was a YouTuber, and that, while she did not know if he made any money, he had promised to give her a cooking show.
Within weeks, the young woman’s parents successfully applied for guardianship of her and brought her home to Texas. When she returned, she told her parents she was engaged to Gariepy and pregnant with his child, even though Gariepy was still married, and both urine and blood tests revealed the teenager was not pregnant.
Her family’s lawyer described her as afraid of Gariepy, and upset upon her return home.
“She was not eating or drinking because she thought she was pregnant, even though she wasn’t, all of which was a result of her being with Mr. Gariepy,” the lawyer testified.
Gariepy filed his own motion to block the family’s guardianship, claiming the young woman was not incapacitated and that they were legitimate domestic partners. “I’m her fiance and we were trying to make a baby. We have been living together for three weeks,” he testified in an August 2016 court appearance.
The young woman, who consented to her parents’ guardianship, opted out of the court appearance.
“She is not here because she doesn’t want to see him and she doesn’t want to be here,” the family’s lawyer said. “And so, this would be an uncontested if it were not for Mr. Gariepy.”
At that time, Gariepy had not begun divorce proceedings with his wife, which the family’s lawyer speculated in August 2016 might be due to “Mr. Gariepy’s seeking status or the fact that he may or may not be here illegally.”
The implication that Gariepy might have been in the country illegally appears to conflict with the views Gariepy champions online, where he calls for white-run states that could bar immigrants. The teenager he attempted to impregnate is Hispanic and was born in the U.S.
According to his wife’s filings in the simultaneous custody case, Gariepy’s visa had been up for review beginning July 2016, the month the teenager drove to meet him in North Carolina.
An appeals court denied Garipey’s attempt to block the teenager’s family’s guardianship.
“The concern here with [the teenager] is that because of her autism spectrum disorder, someone can really take advantage of her because she cannot read social cues like most of us can,” a psychologist wrote in her opinion that the teenager’s parents should assume guardianship of her.
“In the short amount of time they have been physically together, this man seems to be obsessed with wanting a child and is looking at having a child with someone who has difficulty even taking care of herself.”
Throughout his interview with The Daily Beast, Gariepy characterized the legal system as antagonistic against him, despite having been the one to pursue the cases in appeals courts.
“She got in this system and she somehow got convinced not to contact me anymore. Alright. That’s fine, I moved on with my life,” Gariepy said of the 19-year-old, whose guardianship he fought for even after she consented to her parents’ guardianship.
He claimed the Duke undergraduate who described his alleged emotional abuse only did so after “discovering that I was a Trump supporter... She knew that by merely making the false allegations in court, the documents would get public, and eventually her false allegations against me would get on the internet.” (In fact, the undergraduate made her allegations to a private investigator, and the court documents would not have appeared on publicly available North Carolina court databases unless the case went to the state’s appellate court, which keeps digital records. The case only went to the appellate court because Gariepy appealed his wife’s full custody win.)
Civil courts, he claimed, are being used to “harass men, to harass white, heterosexual males. Right now I’m currently being treated as a criminal by courts that don’t have the power to put me in jail, but they have the power to ruin my life,” he said of the court case which is currently ongoing because of his persistent appeal.
“What you have, really, is a bunch of leftists who are organizing together, mostly leftist women, who are organizing together to smear a right-wing personality,” he said of his accusers and internet commenters who pointed out his court cases.
He is still pursuing the custody case, although he has since moved back to Canada.
“I decided to abandon voluntarily my permanent resident card because I currently have a girlfriend in Canada,” he said of his alleged permanent residency. “We’re having a baby, so this is where my family will be.”