The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published a brief recap of the case on May 6th. Essentially, the three are accused of conspiracy to murder officers and employees of the United States, solicitation to murder an officer of the United States, and carrying firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence (conspiracy to murder). Cox and Barney are also accused of possession of hand grenades, and Cox is accused of possession of a machine gun. Cox and Barney are also accused of possession of other destructive devices and conspiracy to possess silencers and destructive devices. Additional background information on this indictment was published in this previous post.
-- You can still read the complete 24-page indictment HERE.
Pre-trial maneuvering: On April 30th, both sides met in court to hammer out the rules of engagement. Prosecutors wanted a ban on mention of the 1992 Ruby Ridge incident, self-defense, entrapment, the 2010 Alaska Firearms Freedom Act and the fact that one of the defendants (Barney) is a Mormon. Earlier on April 11th, prosecutors filed a motion to suppress negative testimony about superstar snitch Gerald Olson as well as limits on the testimony of prior DUI and drug possession convictions for three other government witnesses identified by initials. In response, defense attorneys asked for some restrictions of their own on testimony; specifically, Cox’s attorney Nelson Traverso asked the judge to ban the use of the phrase “weapons cache” during trial, based on the argument that the phrase is inflammatory and an inaccurate way to describe guns the defendants had on their own property and in a trailer.
The other informant is William Fulton, who has no criminal past. He was the owner of Drop Zone Security, which perpetrated that incident against a reporter during a Joe Miller campaign appearance which may have irrevocably greased the skids for Miller's defeat.
On May 4th, Judge Bryan delivered his response. He will allow prosecutors to describe stores of firearms as “weapons caches”, and will allow the defense to fully expound on Gerald Olson's past. The judge also denied a separate motion to separate the trial of Lonnie Vernon from the other two defendants. However, two issues remain unresolved, to include a defense argument that prosecutors added additional charges against the defendants to punish them for not accepting plea agreements, and a prosecution argument that a defense accusation of witness tampering is irrelevant and should be banned from trial. Coleman Barney was offered a deal to plead guilty to owning illegal weapons in exchange for dropping the conspiracy charges, but Barney refused to accept it (which tells me they probably wanted Barney to testify against Cox).
We can expect the defense team to hammer away at the credibility of the informants, particularly Gerald Olson. We can expect the defense team to emphasize that the term "241", which meant two of theirs for one of ours, was meant to be strictly defensive; the defendants would execute it only if the cops moved on them first. We can also expect the prosecution to go after Schaeffer Cox the hardest, and emphasize Cox's previous domestic violence imbroglio. What will be interesting is if the three defendants take the stand. Cox probably ought not to take the stand; although he's articulate, he's also young and impetuous, and the prosecution could easily sucker him into going off on a rant about sovereign citizenship, which would irritate the jury. Lonnie Vernon might also not be a good candidate to take the stand, although I know little about him.
However, Coleman Barney may be a good candidate to take the stand. Not only is he a mature business owner and family man, but he's also an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If he can string sentences together coherently, he could impress the jury and increase his chances of acquittal.
Outcome: If this trial was held in Fairbanks, a complete acquittal on all charges would be a possibility, particularly on the conspiracy and solicitation charges. However, the trial is being held in Anchorage, where political correctness has a firmer grip. Consequently, while I believe there's a good chance that all three will be acquitted on all conspiracy and solicitation charges, they could be convicted on the weapons possession charges. If the prosecution can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendants possessed machine guns and hand grenades, that becomes a strict liability scenario at that point.
One commenter to this News-Miner story expresses the belief that he was solicited by an informant at a gun store to convert a semiautomatic AR15 assault rifle for sale into fully automatic:
rextrailbigfoot May 04, 2012:
Last winter while in a sporting goods store in Fairbanks a young man told me how to convert the semi automatic AR15 assault rifles for sale into fully automatic. He proceeded to tell me every detail.
I was sure he was an informant and told him I had no interest in fully automatic weapons, especially assault rifles.
I am sure this is the way the FBI operates and everyone should be careful about these kind of situations.
If I had said I was interested I am sure he would have offered to assist me. After that he would of course have had me arrested.
I think Fairbanks, Salcha, and North Pole are targeted by the FBI.