Two Alaska Militia Members Convicted Of Conspiracy To Commit Murder

by
Reuters
The leader of an Alaska militia group and one of his followers were found guilty on Monday of conspiracy to commit murder and various weapons offenses in a plot to kill government officials and law enforcement officers.

Two Alaska militia members convicted of conspiracy to commit murderThe leader of an Alaska militia group and one of his followers were found guilty on Monday of conspiracy to commit murder and various weapons offenses in a plot to kill government officials and law enforcement officers.

But a U.S. District Court jury in Anchorage failed to reach a unanimous verdict on a murder conspiracy charge against a third co-defendant in a case that federal prosecutors said highlighted a rise in anti-government militancy in recent years.

The prosecution of Schaeffer Cox, 28, founder of the Alaska Peacekeepers Militia, and two followers, tested the limits of free-speech rights and the point at which violent talk can be interpreted as a threat to act violently.

Cox and his co-defendants, Lonnie Vernon, 57, and Coleman Barney, 38, stood trial for six weeks on conspiracy to commit murder and other charges stemming from what prosecutors described as a plot to kill judges, Alaska state troopers and other government officials.

Prosecutors said the men had bought or sought to acquire an assortment of weapons, including grenades and silencers. Some of the weapons were displayed in court during the trial.

The jury found Cox and Vernon each guilty of a single count of conspiracy to commit murder, which carries a maximum possible penalty of life in prison, after two and a half days of deliberations.

Cox was also convicted on seven counts of various weapons charges plus one count of solicitation to commit a crime of violence. Vernon was additionally convicted on one count of conspiracy to possess unregistered weapons. All three men were acquitted of carrying firearms during a crime of violence.

While the jury deadlocked on the murder conspiracy charge against Barney, he was convicted of possessing unregistered weapons and conspiracy to possess such weapons.