Like this winter’s near-record snowfall in Alaska, federal criminal charges keep piling up against imprisoned militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox.
With six additional federal charges filed in a superseding indictment just last Friday, the trial for Cox and Alaska Peacemaker Militia co-defendants Coleman L. Barney and Lonnie G. Vernon has been postponed from Feb. 6 to May 6.
The new federal indictment now includes federal murder conspiracy charges similar to state charges dismissed against Cox last October after a state judge ruled audio and video recording made during a six-month FBI investigation wouldn’t be admissible in state court. Those recordings and testimony from two confidential informants are expected to be the backbone of the federal prosecution.
In those tapes, Cox discusses “overthrowing the federal government by violent means” after establishing a system of “common-law courts” — pseudo-legal panels commonly employed by members of the antigovernment “Patriot” movement to “try” their enemies — and recruiting a 3,500-member militia, court documents allege.
“It is not a rag-tag deal,” Cox boasts of his militia, claiming improbably that it has a medical unit and engineers “that make GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, bombs and all sorts of nifty stuff.”
“We’ve got airplanes with laser-acquisition stuff and we’ve got rocket … and grenade launchers and claymores and machine guns and cavalry and we’ve got boats,” Cox says in another one of the recordings. At one point, he claims his militia crew could outgun the state police in Alaska.
Cox, Barney and Vernon possessed and sought to acquire illegal firearms, machine guns, destructive devices and silencers as part of their membership in the Alaska Peacemaker Militia and the Alaska Assembly Post, the new indictment says.
They were arming themselves in the belief that at some future point they would be compelled to take up arms against the government or become a new government in the event of a government collapse, the indictment says.
“In preparation for this eventuality, Cox used the Alaska Assembly Post to establish a military arm, a legal arm, a separate judiciary and monetary currency,” the charging document alleges. Additionally, Cox was collecting a list of state and federal government employees and assigned an unindicted co-conspirator to locate their personal information, including home addresses, so the militia group could kill them in the event of a government collapse or Cox’s arrest, it says.
Cox, Barney and others in the militia also created a plan to kill two government employees in the event that one of them was arrested by the government – what has been called the two-for-one (“241”) plot.
“The illegal firearms, machine guns, destructive devices, and firearms silencers were also possessed with the intent to thwart any effort by law enforcement from taking Cox into custody and … in furtherance of Cox’s stated belief that no governmental law, state or federal, applied to him due to his status as a sovereign citizen,” the indictment says. So-called sovereign citizens believe, entirely without basis, that federal tax and criminal laws generally don’t apply to them.
The three defendants were served with the new charges Monday as they appeared in U.S. District Court in Anchorage at what they believed would be a motion hearing. Asked how he pleaded to Count 1 in the indictment, Cox declared, “Innocent,” the Anchorage Daily News reported.
Visiting U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan, of Tacoma, Wash., told the defendant that pleas are customarily verbally entered as “guilty” or “not guilty. “I'm not guilty, and totally innocent,” Cox said after the judge read through the new 16-count indictment, including charges of conspiracy to murder and solicitation to commit a crime of violence, the newspaper reported.
In the new indictment, Cox is named in 10 counts and Barney is named in six. Vernon is only charged with four counts. All three are named in the murder solicitation and conspiracy counts.
The new charges are contained in a third superseding indictment – actually the fourth formal set of counts brought by the Justice Department. Such indictments are the vehicles prosecutors use to construct their criminal cases after presenting witnesses and evidence to a secret grand jury, which ultimately must vote on whether to bring the charges.
The first indictment against Cox was brought last March, showing that the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Alaska and the FBI have been using the grand jury process for at least a year to probe the activities of Cox and his Peacemaker Militia.
The case is considered one of three high-profile domestic terrorism militia group cases currently being prosecuted by the Justice Department. The other cases are in Michigan and Georgia.