Federal Weapons Trial Rescheduled for Fairbanks ‘241’ Defendants
FAIRBANKS - Trial dates have been pushed back nine months for three defendants accused of illegally stockpiling weapons as part of an elaborate murder conspiracy plot.
Schaeffer Cox, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon are scheduled to face trial on Feb. 6, 2012, on the federal weapons charges. The date was rescheduled at a hearing on Thursday without objection from prosecutors or defense attorneys.
U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan stated in a court order that holding the trial as originally scheduled on May 23 would “likely result in a miscarriage of justice” in such a complex case. He said “it is unreasonable under the circumstances of this case to expect adequate preparation” by attorneys if a trial were held that soon.
Cox, Barney and Vernon are accused of six federal weapons charges, including possessing unregistered silencers; possessing an unregistered machine gun; possessing unregistered grenades and parts; making a silencer and possessing a machine gun.
The charges are tied to a larger conspiracy that prosecutors say involved plans to kill or kidnap state judges and Alaska State Troopers, along with a plot to kill a federal judge and tax agent. Separate federal and state proceedings are scheduled for murder conspiracy, kidnapping conspiracy and weapons misconduct charges.
Two others who are accused of being part of the plot — Michael O. Anderson and Karen Vernon, who is Lonnie Vernon’s wife — are not facing federal weapons charges. The various defendants were arrested on March 10 in a series of raids throughout the Fairbanks North Star Borough.
According to charging documents, the five defendants are part of a group of militia members who developed a plan dubbed “241.” The plot would kidnap or kill two Alaska State Troopers or state judges anytime a militia member was arrested or killed by authorities.
Prosecutors say the plan was a response to any future effort to detain Cox, who was wanted by authorities for failing to appear at a Feb. 14 trial for a misdemeanor weapon charge. A related plan would kill a federal judge and Internal Revenue Service agent who were involved in a tax case against the Vernons, prosecutors say.
Much of the evidence against the defendants is reportedly from hundreds of hours of secret FBI recordings of militia meetings. The defendants had identified targets for murder and kidnapping and had stockpiled weapons for the task, according to the charging document.
Contact staff writer Jeff Richardson at 459-7518.