WRAM - We dedicate our hearts,minds and bodies to protecting our great Republic!
An Anchorage jury convicted Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox and two of his confederates on most of the charges they faced, leaving them looking at the possibility of long prison terms when they are sentenced in September.
As the verdicts were read aloud Monday by U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan, Cox's eyes darted from juror to juror and then to the full courtroom, returning again to the jurors, and he grew more agitated as the guilty verdicts piled up. The jurors appeared to avert his gaze. When the 21 separate verdicts were in the books and each juror polled by the judge to ensure the record was correct, Cox erupted.
"The prosecutors withheld evidence from you guys!" Cox shouted to the jury.
"Mr. Cox, please," said the judge. Cox looked down and covered his face. The next time he looked up, his eyes were red.
Federal prosecutors charged Cox, 28, Coleman Barney, 37, and Lonnie Vernon, 56, with amassing illegal weapons and with threatening the lives of law enforcement officials and judges. Cox was leader of the Alaska Peacemaker Militia, but his ideology was much broader, combining evangelical Christianity, a sense of an impending national collapse, and the assertion that the state and federal government held no authority over him.
The defense attorneys said that Cox and his codefendants were being prosecuted because of their ideas. They should have been protected by the First Amendment's rights of free speech and assembly, they said.
Cox and Vernon were each convicted of the most serious of 16 counts in their indictment, conspiracy to murder federal employees including law enforcement officers. The jury deadlocked on whether the third defendant, Coleman Barney, 37, was also guilty of conspiracy to murder and the judge declared a mistrial on that count, which carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Prosecutors said a decision would be made later on whether to retry Barney on that charge, but such a new trial seemed unlikely given the complexity of the case and that fact that he faces prison on his conviction on two weapons felonies.
All three men were convicted of conspiring to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices. Cox was convicted of soliciting the murder of a U.S. officer.
The jury rejected all five counts in which prosecutors charged the defendants with carrying a firearm during a crime of violence. But Cox was found guilty on a total of nine counts and Barney and Vernon twice. Most of the charges carry 10-year prison sentences.
'SHUT UP, DON'T EXPRESS YOURSELF'
Bryan, a visiting judge from Tacoma, Wash., set sentencing for Sept. 14, around the time he will return to Alaska to conduct another trial in which Vernon and his wife are defendants. They're accused of threatening to murder the federal judge who presided over their losing tax case.
The jury of seven women and five men began deliberating Thursday morning and worked through Friday before getting the weekend off. The jury resumed deliberations Monday.
Bryan, a veteran federal judge who was appointed by President Reagan, was effusive in his praise of the jury.
"I do not recall a jury in a very complicated case like this being as engaged, as involved in paying attention, making notes and trying to understand everything, an all the evidence, as it came in," Bryan said.
Though Bryan said they were now free to talk about the case with reporters or the attorneys, they declined. As they walked from the federal building together, some looked upset. Outside, they parted into groups, waved goodbye, and went their separate ways.
Back in the courtroom, Bryan declared, "The defendants are remanded to custody subject to further order," and left the courtroom. As marshals were putting the the defendants in handcuffs, Marti Cox mouthed, "I love you" to her husband. With tears in her eyes, she turned and hugged Barney's mother, Mae Barney, who was also crying.
Marti Cox, Mae Barney and her husband, Bill Barney, said the verdicts were too fresh for them to comment.
Outside the courtroom, assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki said the verdicts were fair and that the jury had plenty of evidence to construct their pleas. He said prosecutors alone introduced 900 exhibits and called 70 witnesses.
But Tim Dooley, Barney's attorney, said the verdict represented a reversal for free speech. He said the lesson was, "Shut up, don't express yourself ... don't say anything you think will be opposed by the U.S. government."
DEADLOCKED ON ONE COUNT
It wasn't clear earlier in the day that there would be verdicts Monday. Shortly before 2 p.m., the jury sent word that it was deadlocked on one count. Bryan summoned the attorneys and defendants and called the jury back into the jury box.
Asking who was elected foreperson and telling the jury to not say anything about its divisions, Bryan asked if they had unanimous verdicts in the other counts. The forewoman said they had. Bryan sent them away and a few minutes later asked them to prepare the verdict forms. They returned at 3:07 p.m.
Over 22 days of trial, the jury frequently came in contact with big legal and philosophical issues concerning the limits of free speech and the right to bear arms.
Cox was a charismatic leader who almost won the Republican primary in Fairbanks for a state House seat in 2008, and he came to the attention of the FBI after a series of speeches to militia and conservative organizations in Montana.
The investigation had nothing to do with Cox's radical doctrines, an FBI agent testified. Rather, it was Cox's claim, proven to be grossly exaggerated, that he had 3,500 men in arms in Fairbanks who were willing to kill to protect liberty, and that his force had mines and automatic weapons.
The two other defendants were Barney, a major in the Alaska Peacemaker Militia and a successful electrical contractor from North Pole with a large family; and Vernon, a militia sergeant who, with his wife, Karen, was losing his home in Salcha in their fight with the IRS.
Prosecutors made much of the arsenal they seized following the "take down" arrests on March 10, 2011, of Cox, Barney and the Vernons. The four were arrested in the middle of a sting as they attempted to buy hand grenades and silenced pistols from an FBI informant.
On any given day in the trial, the evidence was piled by the rail behind the prosecution table, ready to be identified or explained by witnesses: semi-automatic assault rifles, pistols, grenade launchers, demilitarized hand grenades and bullet-proof vests. Thousands of rounds live ammo, including grenades containing tear gas, pepper gas and rubber BBs, didn't make it into the courtroom for obvious reasons, but photographs of the materiel were shown to the jury on a regular basis.
As much as prosecutor made of the weapons, the defense attorneys pointed out that most were legal and that at least some Alaskan wouldn't think that owning thousands of bullets wasn't weird, unlike a jury, say, in California.
Cox created or played a leadership role in at least five separate activist organizations in Fairbanks. The Interior Alaska Conservative Coalition kicked him out in 2010 when Cox began advocating "bloody revolution" and the overthrow the government, a board member testified at the trial.
His Liberty Bell Network provided a phone number -- Cox's cell phone -- for anyone who believed the police were overstepping their bounds. Cox and other volunteers would race to the scene to capture the event on video. It was at such a situation where Cox failed to declare to the police that he was carrying a concealed weapon, leading to the charge he eventually failed to answer.
His Alaska Assembly Post promoted the "sovereign citizen" movement in Fairbanks, the notion that the individual is the only source of governmental authority. Under the auspices of the Assembly Post, Cox arranged for a "judge" and a jury of his pals to hear his weapons case and a prior domestic violence case to which he had already pleaded guilty. The proceedings were held at the Denny's restaurant in Fairbanks and he was acquitted of all charges.
Cox's Second Amendment Task Force was popular in Fairbanks despite its declaration that members, if they served on a real jury, should never convict a person of gun charges unless the weapon was used in connection with another crime. There's a famous YouTube video of Rep. Don Young standing next to Cox at Denny's as Cox declared, "We have no obligation to submit to a government that refuses to submit to their governing document."
In the video, Young signed a public letter written by Cox that declares that if the government decides to "further tax, restrict or register firearms," citizens would have the duty to "alter or abolish" such a government and replace it with another.
Cox created the Alaska Peacemaker Militia as a uniformed and heavily armed force. At times he described it as a defensive organization, but also declared its members could open fire first on government agents who had drawn down on them. It was also the militia that would implement the "241" plan.
With those organizations, prosecutors said, Cox had created the foundation of an alternative government and the ability to use force to attempt to put in place.
The defense argued that Cox never posed an imminent threat to civil order and, with Barney and Vernon, operated within constitutional limits.
Yeah, I guess you're right. But in Schaeffer Cox's case, shouldn't he have gone the judge paid off dead end route instead of making his 2 4 1 threats, neither way seems like a very good way to remain sovereign to me though.
Columbia,I have to agree with you. As you said we don't need to hurt the image we should present to the public.
BLOODY REVOLUTION!!!GOT A NICE RING TO IT...JUST SAYING BOYS///WILLIAM...
It sounds as though the defense was right. They never attacked anyone, though it sounds as though the FBI tried to lead them into an attempt - which they failed at. I also have to wonder about those "illegal weapons." The Founders were adamant that the people should be armed as well as the military, though this was of course a long time before our more powerful weapons, including the conventional, existed. The Second amendment says, "The right of citizens to keep and bear ARMS shall not be infringed." Hand grenades are "arms", are they not? They never limited the Second Amendment to JUST GUNS. As for all the rest, as the defense attorney said, the government didn't like what they were saying, so apparently they're going to prison for saying the wrong things. If they said they would defend themselves and their families against an attack against them and their families by police or military acting illegally, is THAT so illegal an act that they can go to prison for it?
This whole thing sounds WRONG to me. Anyone else?
I'm inclined to believe that the 12 fellow Americans doing their civic duty did so with clearer judgement. Alaska laws covering coercive threats and conspiracy to commit murder which is what was covered by the convictions is pretty clear. I don't think that just talking about action I might or I intend to take in a given situation should be wrong by itself. I think where Mr. Cox was way wrong though is his belief that anyone can simply say "I'm a sovereign citizen and Not a part of your society so I don't need to respect you or your laws or your constitution ". No I don't think that should warrant life in prison but stupidity has a way of causing you more grief than deserved I guess.
Sorry Chancy, but stupidity DIDN'T cause them that grief. A police state that still claims to be a Republic did. And, I believe, a desperate desire to MAKE IT be the Republic it claims it is. I'm afraid I can empathize with that. Gestures doomed to fail, however, don't attract me.
One has to be careful in what you do,say or write on a website. The Government has the power to crush you you liking steping on an ant. You can bet that Big Sis and Homeland Security will be looking more ant-government patroits.
The Black Panthers and Islam are going to be given a pass. It's only the Patroit,White Christian that a problem in this country(with Obama,Holder and Big Sis).
I urge everyone keep a low profile. Last of all becareful who you confide in and trust. When things get bad, your friend today, could be your enemy tomorrow.
So the one guy was a braggart. That's worthy of a life sentence? Exaggeration is also a legitimate military tactic. Still, all he claimed was that these people were willing to follow both the Declaration of Independence, the examples and philosophy of the Founders and the Constitution. Again - how is this worthy of a life sentence? Not everyone who claims to be willing to fight to the death for freedom (the right word is liberty), and not all people who are silent would just sit and watch a takeover happen. This preventive, predictive sentencing that denies the First Amendment is more totalitarianism.
Welcome to Amerika. Thanks a lot, NSA, DHS, et al. You've managed to destroy the country you were created to protect. Real patriots hey? Well, as the last of generations of patriots who chose to serve in times of war, my mother included (Dad was lifer military, and my brother and served also), go to Hell. I really hope you all get what you deserve. I'm disabled and not very mobile, so there's little I CAN do but hope, but I'll do that much then. We can only do what we can;. Your turn will come though. When you're done getting rid of us for the "elites', do you think they're going to leave people like YOU sitting around? You're like nearly rabid guard dogs to them. Nope; when we're gone and you have no more victims to hunt down, they'll get rid of you next.
It's a reward you'll have earned!
Lonnie Vernon, who was convicted of conspiracy to murder federal officials along with militia leader Schaeffer Cox in the “241” murder conspiracy case, has asked that a second murder conspiracy case be relocated to Washington state, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
Vernon’s second trial, which centers on charges that he allegedly threatened to kill an Internal Revenue Service agent and U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, is slated to begin September in Anchorage. Judge Beistline was handling a tax case against Vernon and his wife over failure to pay taxes for several years.
Vernon’s attorney, Assistant Federal Defender M.J. Haden, cited extensive negative publicity in Alaska as the reason behind the move. In a request filed Thursday, Haden said the publicity has caused "irreparable harm in tainting the pool of prospective jurors."
“The events of the previous trial have certainly colored the community’s perception in Alaska as far as Mr. Vernon is concerned,” Haden wrote. “He has been branded by the press as a domestic terrorist and has been characterized as a tax protester who has no respect for the federal government.”
Interesting. Aside from the "respect" that ANYONE ought to have for someone who has a gun in his face and the power to disappear you into a dark place for the remainder of your life, I don't know ANYONE who honestly, genuinely respects the IRS. It's a criminal organization, it's illegal per the Constitution. They're a private collection agency registered in Puerto Rico. And they'll kill you for refusing to pay the illegal taxes the UNITED STATE GOVERNMENT, INC. demands of you. Or they'll put you in prison forever for tax evasion - though it isn't illegal to evade taxes you don't owe. The Corporation that pays them out of the money the IRS steals by force from the working people ONLY has authority in Washington D.C. Not in the rest of the country. They are NOT the real government! Mr. Vernon has done nothing wrong.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Alaska husband and wife connected to a militia and accused of trying to kill an IRS agent and federal judge over unpaid taxes have agreed to plead guilty.
The Anchorage Daily News reports (http://is.gd/YnqjOV) a notice filed Thursday shows Lonnie and Karen Vernon of Salcha will enter their plea Monday in U.S. District Court. The couple faces eight counts, and it wasn’t immediately clear to which counts they would enter pleas.
Authorities say the couple owed about $180,000 in taxes, interest and penalties. They claimed the IRS has no authority to collect taxes.
Lonnie Vernon was convicted earlier this year in a separate murder conspiracy plot involving Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox and Coleman Barney, who also were convicted. Sentencing for the three in that case hasn’t been scheduled.
I read "accused of trying to kill an IRS agent and federal judge"
I did NOT read threatened to kick an agent's ass or threaten to kill them. I guess we'll see the evidence and testimony play out.
And Magnus, I'm sure you would have done something more if you knew a judge in your jurisdiction was being attacked. It must be very different to protect ones self from the punks than to protect those you're hired to protect from real threat and attack??