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Convicted Alaska Militia Leader Fires Attorney

By Bill Morlin on July 10, 2012 - 12:12 pm, Posted in Antigovernment, Domestic Terrorism, Extremist Crime, Militias

Alaska militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox has fired his attorney, likely laying the groundwork for an appeal of his nine convictions, which include conspiring to kill a judge and law enforcement officials.

In a two-sentence document filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage, the 28-year-old leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia said he had discharged defense attorney Nelson Traverso. “I do so voluntarily and intelligently and will seek other counsel,” Cox said.

The basis for the firing, Cox contends, is that Traverso was ineffective and didn’t provide a proper defense, leading to Cox’s jury conviction and, quite likely, a lengthy prison sentence. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14, but that date could be postponed to allow his new attorney time to review the case.

Traverso, in an affidavit accompanying Cox’s filing, said Cox “has, on numerous occasions, expressed dissatisfaction with counsel’s presentation, direct-examinations, cross-examinations, exhibits, witnesses called on his behalf, and arguments raised during trial.”

“Mr. Cox believes that counsel was ineffective in his representation and that contributed to his conviction on multiple charges in this case,” Traverso wrote.

Motions for substitution of counsel are routinely granted in federal court, and it’s highly unlikely that visiting U.S. District Judge Robert J. Bryan from Tacoma will block Cox’s request.

Defendants appealing their convictions frequently use the argument that their lawyer didn’t do a good job. But as one Alaska political blog, Alaska Pride, points out, persuading a judge is a tall order. The appeal must make a convincing case that the attorney was not competent and that the attorney’s poor work was directly responsible for the convictions.

In closing arguments capping a six-week trial that ended in June, Traverso described his client as a father of two who isn’t a dangerous revolutionary as the government contends,  but rather a “loudmouth” activist who merely exercised his free speech rights with “liberal use of violent imagery.”

The jury didn’t buy it.

On June 18, after three days of deliberation, the panel convicted Cox on nine of 11 charges, including seven weapons charges. He was acquitted on charges of carrying a handgun while conspiring to purchase destructive devices and possession of a handgun while discussing the murder conspiracy.

Co-defendants Lonnie Vernon, 56, and Coleman Barney, 38, were convicted of related charges in the murder conspiracy.

  • Reynardine

    Actually, I tried to post a sample motion of the kind, but for some reason they took it down.

  • Erika

    if there was a “not guilty by reason of stupidity” verdict it would be used extremely frequently :)

  • bReynardine

    Yodz, I’ve been out of the business this many a year, but it’s Florida.

    A woman sued our county because she was struck by lightning on the beach by a “bolt from the blue” (no menacing weather before- it happens here). The judge told her he knew who did it, but the court had no jurisdiction over Him. I believe the same decision would be rendered on your “Motion to Fix Stupid”.

  • Yodz


    I, likewise, have considered filing such a motion. Perhaps we can work together on a motion entitled “Motion to Fix Stupid.” Unfortunately it would be denied since that’s not within the power of any court…or anyone else for that matter. What state do you practice in?

  • Reynardine

    Note: Bastille Day celebration one day late this year, but successful.

  • Reynardine

    Actually, I could foresee one or more of such Irish judges, when the foregoing motion was presented to them, granting it…to be carried out on the morning of New Year’s Day, 2094.

  • Reynardine

    By the way, Yodz, I have thought of dropping such a motion anonymously in the clerk’s in-box (fictitious client and case, of course)

  • Reynardine

    One time, when I, constructively and in part French, had been working all day without so much as a sip of wine, I had just lain down to sleep in only a pair of undercrackers when I was roused by a thunderous knock on the door. I grabbed a .44 snub revolver and rushed to see what the emergency was, only to discover a drunken client and her grotty boyfriend. Her plea was that she was at least Italian. That was when such a motion first crossed my mind. Had the judge been one of our local Irish Catholics, I would have phrased it thus;

    “Your Honor, suppose you had worked all St. Patrick’s day without a drink or a break or a good wish, and the person who got you up like that was an Orangeman?…”

  • Erika

    No. Actually, I don’t even know where Alma College is

  • Yodz

    Erika and Reynardine:

    I thinks you may be on to something. It would be unbelievable fun to show up at court to argue that motion. Erika, you didn’t happen to go to Alma College, did you?

  • Reynardine

    Erika, I hope I have provided you with a useful template motion. Of course, it is modeled on the one used in the State of Florid Self-Representations.

  • Erika

    I am of the belief that the practice of law would be great if it didn’t have to involve clients :)

  • Linda Kellen Biegel

    I forgot to mention, the information you attributed to Alaska Pride came from Jill Burke’s piece in Alaska Dispatch. He linked to it.

  • Linda Kellen Biegel

    I would hesitate to use the “Alaska Pride” blog as a source for most things (although he is occasionally reasonable). The blog has always been “white pride” affiliated, thus the double meaning of the title. He’s more subtle about it now, but you can still see his leanings in the “Alternative Media” list.

  • Reynardine


    CASE # ***





    Comes now Undersigned Counsel for Plaintiff and moves this honorable Court for permission to shoot client. As good grounds therefore, s/he states as follows:

    Client is a formidable pain in the *.

    (Fill in particulars)

    Wherefore, for good grounds as stated and such others as suggest themselves to this honorable Court, the undersigned respectfully requests permission to shoot Client.

    Respectfully submitted,

  • Reynardine

    Actually, you can withdraw from a case because of non-co-operation of a client, but in certain instances I have wished we could shoot them.

  • Aron

    I second Erica’s motion.

    The Erica the Commenter Idiot Client Rule motion has passed. Now all we need is the President to sign it into law.

    And then the lawyering profession can become that much easier! ;)

  • Erika

    Just once, I would like to see a criminal defense attorney file a motion for “ineffective assistance of client” and a motion for a new client :)