Schaeffer Cox, Militia Defendant, Takes Stand
In fourth week of trial, primary defendant speaks up
ANCHORAGE - Schaeffer Cox, charged along with two other men in a conspiracy to kill government officials, took the stand in his defense Monday afternoon.
Cox, Lonnie Vernon and Coleman Barney were all members of the Alaska Peacemaker’s Militia when they were arrested earlier this year for a slew of weapons violations and conspiracy charges. From the outset, federal prosecutors told jurors they’d hear from dozens of witnesses and 100 hours of surveillance recordings pointing towards plans for a violent government overthrow.
But going into the fourth week of trial in an Anchorage federal courtroom, Cox’s testimony painted a picture of a peaceful community organization bent on persistent social change.
“I don’t think you can change people’s minds with force,” Cox told jurors when asked about the militia’s plans for affecting social change. Instead, he said the organization focused on uniting neighbors while completing military training in preparation for “social breakdown.”
Cox mentioned Indian leader Mohandas Gandhi several times throughout his testimony, praising his ability to affect social change without violence. While that was the ultimate goal of the militia group, Cox said he was prepared for the imminent economic breakdown of the U.S. government. At that point, he said community safety might be dependant on the militia’s military capabilities.
Cox described strict standards for the use of deadly force: According to militia rules, he said it was only acceptable when there was no other recourse to prevent the loss of an innocent life. Ultimately, he said it came down to one principle.
“I don’t think there’s anything I wouldn’t do to protect my family,” Cox said.