Fairbanks Militia Leader Schaeffer Cox Sentenced to 26 Years
Convicted of planning to murder federal employees
ANCHORAGE - Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox was sentenced to 26 years in prison today for his role in charges relating to planning the murders of federal employees. During his sentencing in federal court in Anchorage today, his attorney, Peter Camiel, made a last minute appeal for leniency. He said Cox suffers from mental illness.
Camiel is new to the Cox case. In the time since Cox's trial in June, he's reviewed Cox's case. He said that Cox's story is of a man who lived a stable, productive life. He was married in his early 20s, had a home, two children and a business. Camiel said it didn't make sense he would jeopardize this for the sake of a conspiracy, so he had him tested. Camiel said being professionally evaluated, Cox was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, paranoid delusions and paranoid personality disorder.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki countered this was just another excuse from Cox, someone he said has never taken accountability for his actions. He said that though the defense claims Cox suffered from mental illness, he still had followers. "This was a man interested in taking human life," Skrocki said, citing conversations Cox had with co-conspirators. "We are asking for a long sentence." he said to the judge.
When Francis Schaeffer Cox had a chance to make comments, he was very emotional, "I put myself here with my own words," he said his voice breaking in the first sentence. "I feel horrible about that." His comments aligned with Camiel's defense of paranoia. "I know I said scary things. Especially now I see how serious that was." He described a fear that someone was out to get him and his family, "I was terrified of living in a nightmare that I couldn't wake up from and still am. It's even more scary now." He then apologized to people sitting the crowded courtroom. He told people he had threatened that he hadn't really meant them any harm.
He talked about his family and how he regretted being away from his young children, ages 2 and 4. "I know I put myself here." he said.
When Judge Robert Ryan gave the sentence he discussed why he made his decision. He mentioned the many letters he'd received on Cox's behalf. He said there were several themes that people used to appeal to him in the sentencing decision. Friends and family said he was a good person, that his family need him and some even suggested he was innocent, that it was a plot that put him in prison. Ryan expressed sympathy for the family that had lost their breadwinner. He handed down the 26-year sentence saying the public needs to be protected from Cox, whom he believes needs continuing medical care for his mental condition.
Cox's sentence is almost identical to that of Lonnie Vernon, a co-conspirator who was sentenced yesterday.