Search Warrant Results Kick Off Second Week of Fairbanks '2-4-1' Militia Trial
ANCHORAGE — Jurors in the trial of three members of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Peacemakers Militia saw evidence Monday that was seized from a fourth member of the militia who was searched but not criminally charged in the investigation.
As the trial began its second week at the Federal Courthouse in Anchorage, prosecutors wrapped up testimony about search warrants executed on the three defendants.
They then called two witnesses to describe — over the objection of defense attorneys — a search done of four school buses lived in by Ken Thesing, who is not listed on prosecutors’ witness list. Prosecutors say it is important to the case because he hosted a militia meeting where the defendants discussed a “two for one” (or “2-4-1”) retaliatory strategy to kidnap two government employees in response to any move to arrest a militia member and to kill two if any militia member was killed in any ensuing struggle.
The three defendants in the case, Schaeffer Cox of Fairbanks, Coleman Barney of the North Pole area and Lonnie Vernon of Salcha, are charged with conspiracy to commit murder as well as assorted weapons charges. They have been imprisoned without bail since their arrest in March 2011.
Thesing is not charged in the case. However, he was charged in Alaska District Court last year for one count of simulating a legal process, the misdemeanor crime of filing phony paperwork in court.
Specifically, he was accused of filing a document on behalf of Cox related to the Sovereign Citizen movement, whose members say the government does not have authority over them. Thesing was not convicted and the case against him was dropped last fall.
According to prosecutors’ witnesses, the search of Thesing’s buses yielded similar materials as searches of the defendants homes, including semi-automatic weapons, body armor and paperwork related to the Peacemakers militia.
A militia “duty roster” reportedly found in one school bus identified Thesing as having the rank of major in the Alaska Peacemaker’s Militia. Cox, the group’s founder, was identified as a colonel. Barney was listed as a major, and Vernon was listed as a sergeant in the group.
On cross examination from defense attorneys, the Alaska State Trooper who testified about the search clarified it’s not illegal to be in a militia or to own body armor or semiautomatic guns.
Also found in Thesing’s home was an iPhone with lists related to the Peacemakers, according to a trooper electronic evidence expert. One list, last modified in the fall of 2010, was vaguely identified as a list of ideas “to do.” Among the items were: Alaska Peacemaker Militia pens, paint ball, a booth at the Midnight Sun Festival, a spaghetti feed, a “hit list,” post cards, a war protest, a trooper protest, militia “tax” bills and pirate radio.
Vernon’s public defender M.J. Haden objected to the use of evidence from Thesing’s home. She said it wasn’t fair for the prosecutors to use information seized from the home of someone who is not charged with a crime and who defense attorneys will not have a chance to cross-examine.