ANCHORAGE — A cart piled with transcripts in thick three-ring binders was rolled into the Anchorage courtroom Thursday afternoon where three Interior men are on trial on charges they made plans to murder government employees.
After a week of showing jurors photographs and looking at weapons and body armor, prosecutors gave jurors the transcript binders and asked them to listen to a short sample of the more than 100 hours of recording investigators made while investigating Fairbanks militia-leader Schaeffer Cox.
Thursday’s recordings came from a public speech Cox gave in November 2009 at a VFW hall in northwest Montana. It’s among political speeches in the Lower 48 that led the FBI to begin watching Cox before recruiting two informants to monitor him more closely, according to prosecutors.
Along with the cart of transcripts, prosecutors brought forward a newspaper reporter from the town of Plains, Mont., who testified he had been covering the event, which attracted about 100 people, and identified Cox as the speaker.
One clip played in court Thursday featured Cox boasting about the firepower of his Peacemaker’s Militia:
“We’ve got a medical unit that’s got surgeons and doctors and medical trucks and mobile surgery units and stuff like that,” he said in the recording. “We’ve got engineers that make GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, bombs and all sorts of nifty stuff. We’ve got guys with ... we’ve got airplanes with laser acquisition stuff and we’ve got rocket launchers and grenade launchers and claymores and machine guns and cavalry and we’ve got boats. It’s all set,”
Prosecutors have referred to this speech before, but what the transcript does not covey is the crowd sounds. In the clip about the Peacemakers Militia’s high tech armament Cox pauses and the Montana audience laughs as he adds items to the list.
Elsewhere in the speech, Cox asked gun owners to join him in disobeying gun registration laws so that there will be too many violators to be prosecuted, saying “When everyone is on the list, no one is on the list.”
He got boisterous laughter and applause again when he told a story about a police officer at a gun show once telling him he was on some kind of watch list. “Really, well you’re on our list,” Cox said he responded.
In the trial, Cox is charged along with Coleman Barney from the North Pole area and Lonnie Vernon of Salcha. Thursday’s testimony wrapped up the first week of a trial that’s supposed to run Monday to Thursday for four to six weeks.
By the end of the week, there were about 15 to 20 spectators in the courtroom during most parts of the testimony, including family of Cox and Barney, U.S. Marshals, legal staff and a few curious onlookers.
That’s down from the beginning of the trial, when there was a group of more than 40 with a larger security presence and more media outlets including reporters from Alaska Dispatch, the Alaska Pubic Radio Network, the Anchorage Daily News, the Associated Press, Anchorage TV station KTVA, the L.A. Times, Reuters and political blog The Mudflats.
Cox’s wife and father sat in the middle of the audience throughout the week. His wife, Marti Cox, said she will only be able to see parts of the trial because she has work back in Fairbanks. Usually sitting in a row next to the Cox family were Barney’s wife, brother and parents. His father, Bill Barney, said they plan to stay in Anchorage for the entire trial.
Also present this week was a young man on vacation from Chicago who did not want his name used in the paper. He said he is here in Alaska to explore the outdoors but wanted to see the trial because he has a militia back home.
Another regular in the courtroom is Anchorage resident Paul Kendall, who tends to steer most conversations to the subject of cold nuclear fusion, a miracle power source he says is poised to transform Alaska. Asked why he’s attending the trial, he said while doesn’t personally know Cox but is impressed by the power of Cox’s political ideas and the way they inspire older men.
Before the court got to the recordings Thursday, jurors saw militia documents seized from Barney’s home that outline grievances with some of the government employees the defendants are accused of conspiring to kill.
Jurors saw two returned envelopes addressed to two employees of the Alaska Office of Children’s Services, which was investigating Cox’s family after a domestic violence report in 2010. The documents inside accuse the employees of trespassing on his property and trying to kidnap his son. It demands two killings for every transgression against Cox. The envelopes were marked as not delivered.
Jurors also saw a manual for the Peacemakers Militia. Under direct examination, prosecutors asked an Alaska State Trooper to read from parts of the manual that deal with how to use firearms and move with a weapon. Job descriptions for a team of four decided in the manual consisted a “full auto guy, grenadier, rifleman and sniper.”
On cross examination, Cox’s attorney Nelson Treverso asked the trooper to also read from the page with the militia oath, which concludes with “I will Demand liberty, Destroy tyranny, Discern justice, Defend all, Aggress none and follow others to the end.”
Part of the oath, the motto “defend all, aggress none” also appears on the logo of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia.
In addition to the murder conspiracy to charge, the defendants face assorted weapons charges.
Among them, is a charge that Cox and Barney had an illegal “destructive device,” because replica grenade bodies, smoke grenade fuses, smokeless powder and JB Weld epoxy were all found in Barney’s trailer.
On Thursday afternoon, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms agent Phil Whitley testified that he determined that these items should be considered an illegal device because while all the materials all legal, a working grenade could readily be made with them.
He testified that all the items were found very close to each other in the trailer and there was no sign the powder was being used for a legal purpose like reloading ammunition.
Contact Fairbanks Daily News-Miner staff writer Sam Friedman at 907-459-7545.