The Anchorage Daily News is reporting this morning that five people in the Fairbanks area were arrested yesterday on charges connected with a plot to kidnap or kill state troopers and a Fairbanks judge. They are accused of conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping, and arson, as well as weapons misconduct, hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence. One of those arrested, Francis “Schaeffer” Cox, 26, is the head of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as an antigovernment “Patriot” group.
The four others arrested with Cox are Lonnie Vernon, Karen Vernon, Coleman Barney and Michael Anderson. The announcement of these arrests as well as the arrest on Wednesday of a white supremacist suspect in the attempted bombing of a Martin Luther King Day parade, are another reminder, in the wake of hearings held yesterday by Rep. Peter King that specifically focused on Islamic-inspired terrorism, that domestic terrorist groups can be just as dangerous.
Cox and his compatriots had allegedly already begun planning their activities, according to a statement released by the Alaska State Troopers. The troopers’ investigation showed that “extensive surveillance on troopers in the Fairbanks area had occurred, specifically on the locations of the homes for two Alaska state troopers.” The statement also said that, “Cox et. al. had acquired a large cache of weapons in order to carry out attacks against their targeted victims. Some of the weapons known to be in the cache are prohibited by state or federal law.”
Cox, who self-identifies as a “sovereign citizen,” believes that the government has no authority over him or his fellow self-declared sovereigns. Made up of an estimated 300,000 participants, the sprawling sovereign citizens subculture advocates the idea that the sovereigns themselves — not judges, juries, law enforcement or elected officials — get to decide which laws to obey and which to ignore. Most don’t think they should have to pay taxes.
Sovereign citizens have long targeted judges and law enforcement officers Just this past May 20, two law enforcement officers were killed and two others were wounded by a father-son pair of sovereign citizens in West Memphis, Ark. In 1995 in Ohio, a sovereign named Michael Hill pulled a gun on an officer during a traffic stop. Hill was killed. In 1997, New Hampshire extremist Carl Drega shot dead two officers and two civilians, and wounded another three officers before being killed himself. In that same year in Idaho, when brothers Doug and Craig Broderick were pulled over for failing to signal, they killed one officer and wounded another before being killed themselves in a violent gun battle. (Because of the danger this movement presents to law enforcement, the SPLC produced a training video about sovereign citizens).
Cox’s made his extremist views clear during a December court appearance where he was charged with misdemeanor weapons charges. He defiantly told the judge that he would not attend any further court hearing until the court explained its authority over him. “Based on the evidence, I deny the Alaska Court System is the real judiciary,” Cox said according to The Associated Press. Some of Cox’s language was threatening. “There’s a lot of people that would just as soon come and kill you in the night than come in your courtroom and argue during the day,” Cox told District Judge Jane Kauvar that day.
When he was arrested yesterday, Cox had an outstanding arrest warrant because he failed to appear at another hearing related to his misdemeanor weapons charges.
Cox is involved in more than his Fairbanks militia group and the sovereign citizens movement. He ran something called the Liberty Bell Network, a far-right service that alerts its members when someone believes their rights are being violated. Cox was also listed a delegate for the 2009 We The People (WTP) Continental Congress, an event that brought together a whole host of antigovernment extremists and issued a radical document entitled “Articles of Freedom.” The document declared that the federal government a “threat” to “our Life, Liberty and Property through usurpations of the Constitution.” It demanded President Obama produce his birth documents and called for the repeal of all social service spending. Taking a page from the sovereign citizens movement, it demanded an end to driver’s licenses, auto registration and insurance and rejected the existing legal system, calling instead for the creation of “randomly empanelled citizens’ common law grand juries” to determine when a trial will take place.