Thursday, June 14, 2012

Jury Begins Deliberations In The Schaeffer Cox Militia Trial; Acquittal On Murder Conspiracy Charges Likely, Conviction On Weapons Charges Possible

Update June 18th: Yes, I was too optimistic -- the jury actually convicted Cox and Vernon of conspiracy to murder. Only God knows what the hell the jury was thinking. At least they didn't convict Coleman Barney. Read the details HERE.

On June 14th, 2012, after Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki spent about one hour rebutting the defense team's summations from the previous day, the jury received the case and began deliberations. Deliberations are actually taking place on Friday June 15th; Judge Robert Bryan didn't return to Seattle for three days like he has been doing. The most current media stories are available via Alaska Dispatch and the Anchorage Daily News.

ADN also published a separate interview with Schaeffer Cox's wife Marti Cox in which she tried to counter the popular misconception of of husband as a "wacko", explaining that her husband does indeed believe that divine law has been handed down to people and that it takes precedence over everything else, but also believes that man's law was created to allow people to live together in peace and harmony, she said. While God's laws are perfect, man's laws can go awry when they are used by people to put themselves above others. Those are the kinds of federal and state laws that her husband opposed, according to Marti.

As a reminder, Schaeffer Cox, Coleman Barney, and Lonnie Vernon 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.

-- Read the complete 24-page indictment HERE.

-- Daily synopses of the trial, to include media links, posted HERE.

Probable outcome: The government needed to prove conspiracy to murder beyond reasonable doubt. This meant that they had ideally show that the three actually planned to kill government agents without provocation. In my opinion, this standard was not satisfactorily met. Testimony throughout the trial, to include audio recordings, indicated that all threats were conditional, even though so-called "hit lists" were compiled. IF government agents moved against the three or their families, THEN the three would react. This doubt would be enough to hang the jury, and could even cause an outright acquittal.

In addition, the two informants didn't really help the government's cause. While there's no evidence that Gerald Olson and William Fulton actually crossed the line into entrapment, testimony showed that the two engaged in provocative behavior intended to incite the defendants to commit criminal acts. Olson actually admitted during his testimony on Day 11 that he was cautioned by his handler several times not to instigate or provoke. Olson's character may prove to be too much for the jury to swallow; he not only got a slap on the wrist for his previous crimes in exchange for his cooperation, but he also displayed excessive financial opportunism, admitting on Day 11 that he was prepared to ask the FBI to pay him as much as $300,000 for snitching.

William Fulton engaged in overtly provocative behavior and tried to bully the militia members into committing into more decisive acts, even physically threatening one militia member, as revealed in testimony on Day 15. While Fulton's financial opportunism was much less pronounced, the jury could decide the case would not have reached maturity had it not been for Fulton's involvement.

The weapons charges are a bit more difficult to fathom. Weapons included a Sten submachine gun, three silencer-equipped .22 caliber pistols and four hand grenades. A trailer controlled by Coleman Barney contained a sniper rifle, a tripod-mounted semiautomatic rifle, an M-16 assault rifle and grenade launchers. Both the government and the defense agreed that none of the weapons were specifically identified as illegal to own or purchase. But the government is relying on context to criminalize the weapons in the mind of the jury. An example of "context" was provided by BATFE agent Phil Whitley on Day 4 of the trial; it would be the grenade bodies, a squeeze tube welding kit, shotgun powder, and grenade fuses found inside the trailer owned by Coleman Barney. Separately, the items are not illegal, but because they were found together, that changed how investigators alleged the militia members intended to use them. If the jury agrees with the government's context, they could convict on the weapons charges; if not, they won't convict.

I would like to think the jury wouldn't convict on the weapons possession charges, but gun ownership has been so demonized by the elite in this country that they might decide to convict. Note that the weapons charges include both possession of weapons and carrying firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence; since no crime of violence was actually committed, the jury is unlikely to convict on the second charge.

The Defendants: Not all three appear to be equally culpable. As the trial progressed, Schaeffer Cox emerged not only as the leader, but as the radical who was constantly pushing the envelope, employing the harshest rhetoric, and engaging in the most provocative behavior. His previous dustup for domestic violence also fuels this reputation. Cox's comparison of himself to Mahatma Gandhi fell flat and has no credibility; Gandhi didn't go around warning people he could shoot them if provoked. In contrast, Coleman Barney came across as the level-headed restraining force who was trying to deter Cox from his more egregious actions; Barney also has a much more solid and stable community portfolio. Lonnie Vernon looked like he was just along for the ride, although his failure to take the stand and explain himself may not play well with the jury. Thus it is possible that the jury may render a harsher verdict against Cox than the other two. Here's how I see the worst-case scenario for the outcome:

-- Schaeffer Cox: Not guilty of conspiracy to murder, not guilty of carrying firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence, guilty of all other weapons charges.

-- Coleman Barney: Not guilty of conspiracy to murder, not guilty of carrying firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence, guilty of some of the other weapons charges (although acquittal is not out of the question).

-- Lonnie Vernon: Not guilty of conspiracy to murder, not guilty of carrying firearms and destructive devices during and in relation to a crime of violence, guilty of all other weapons charges.

1 comment:

  1. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.