Prosecutors Fight Trial Move for Salcha Couple Involved in Fairbanks Militia
FAIRBANKS — Federal prosecutors in Alaska on Thursday filed their opposition to a request by two defendants in a murder conspiracy case to move the trial to Washington state.
Lonnie and Karen Vernon of Salcha are accused in an alleged plot to kill an Internal Revenue Service agent and U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline, who was presiding over an IRS case against the Vernons regarding years of unpaid taxes.
The Vernons ultimately lost the case, and the court later allowed the Vernons’ Salcha home and property to be sold off. The Vernons claimed that the IRS had no legal authority to collect taxes.
Lonnie Vernon was convicted earlier this year in connection with a separate murder conspiracy plot involving Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox.
The Vernons argue they cannot get a fair trial in Alaska becauase of what they believe was extensive and inflammatory coverage of the first trial.
Prosecutors disagree, noting that a jury “was easily selected” in the highly publicized first trial and that media coverage “has been factual, relatively ordinary and not a ‘barrage’ of overly prejudicial or pervasive reporting either in volume or in content.”
They also note that no public opinion poll has been conducted showing any bias and that moving the trial to Washington would be a severe logistical strain given the number of witnesses and the large amount of physical evidence.
The decision rests with Anchorage District Court Judge Robert Bryan, who is handling the case against the Vernons.
Contact the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner newsroom at 907-459-7572.