Monday, September 24, 2012

Federal Prosecutors Want To Slam Alaska Militiaman Coleman Barney With A 10-Year Sentence; Judge Gives Him Five Years With Credit For Time Served

Update September 24th: Judge Robert Bryan sentenced Coleman Barney to five years in prison, with credit given for time already served. Since he's been incarcerated since March 2011, this means Barney only gets three-and-a-half years additional time. He would be free no later than March 2016, with an earlier release possible for accumulated good time. Barney's defense attorney Tim Dooley said he will appeal. Also read Jeanne Devon's highly-detailed account of the sentencing on Mudflats. Post has been re-titled to reflect this new development.

On June 18th, 2012, Alaska militiaman Coleman Barney was found guilty of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and possessing an unregistered destructive device. The jury hung on the conspiracy to murder charges, and prosecutors decided not to retry him. Considering that Barney had no prior criminal record, a rational person would expect that he would be sentenced to three years in prison at the most, with credit given for time already served (since March 10th, 2011). Right?

Wrong! In a memorandum filed by prosecutors in Anchorage's U.S. District Court on September 19th, the government is asking for a 10-year sentence for Barney. While prosecutors acknowledge Barney's lack of a past criminal record, they claim numerous aggravating factors in the case, including Barney's use of weapons and personal armor in commission of a crime and lies he told when he testified on his own behalf, should result in a stiffer sentence than might otherwise be justified. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has now weighed in.

-- Read the prosecution's 51-page sentencing memorandum HERE.

Meanwhile, Barney's defense team submitted 53 letters on his own behalf, most from relatives, friends or members of his church asking that he be released with only the time he has already served. "Coleman is one of the most honest men that I have ever met," said friend Richard Matteson. "His dedication to God, family and country rival that of anyone I know. He is a God-fearing man that does not take his covenants to God and his church lightly." Barney was previously identified as an active member of the North Pole Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and apparently the LDS Church's senior hierarchy is aware of the case. On September 16th, during an address delivered at BYU's Marriott Center, Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, cautioned LDS members against joining militia groups or other paramilitary organizations which form on the basis of end-time prophecies. Although Elder Oaks did not refer to Coleman Barney by name, this is the first time that an Apostle, to my knowledge, has specifically referred to militia groups.

Judge Robert Bryan will sentence Coleman Barney on Monday September 24th. I still think Barney will receive, at the worst, five years imprisonment with credit for time already served. But if prosecutors want 10 years for Barney, you can just imagine how much time they'll be asking for with Schaeffer Cox, who was convicted of conspiracy to murder. Twenty years? Forty years? Talk about killing a mosquito with a sledgehammer.

The treatment given to the third militiaman, Lonnie Vernon, could give us a clue. On Monday August 27th, Vernon and his wife appeared in court to plead guilty to conspiring to murder federal officials in a completely separate case from the militia case. The Vernons admitted to intending to kill U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline and Internal Revenue Service officer Janice Stowell in 2011 in retaliation for a decision that they owed more than $165,000 in back taxes. Beistline presided over the tax case. Prosecutors agreed to combine Vernon's militia conviction and his guilty plea in the tax case into one, and Lonnie Vernon will spend from 21 to more than 27 years in prison. Formal sentencing will take place on November 14th.

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