Fairbanks Residents Sentenced for Conspiracy to Murder Public Officials and Weapons Violations
|U.S. Attorney’s Office January 09, 2013|
ANCHORAGE—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today that Francis Schaffer Cox, the self-described leader of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Peacemakers Militia, was sentenced to 310 months (25 years, 10 months) in prison by Senior U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan for conspiracy to murder federal officials, solicitation to commit murder, and several other federal firearms offenses involving machine guns, silencers, and destructive devices.
On January 7, 2013, Judge Bryan also sentenced Lonnie Vernon, a member of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia and a co-defendant of Cox, to 310 months in prison for his convictions for conspiracy to murder federal officials and several federal firearms offenses. Lonnie Vernon was also sentenced to 310 months in a separate case (with the sentences to run concurrently) involving a conspiracy to murder Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline (Alaska) and another federal official. Lonnie Vernon’s co-defendant in that case, his wife Karen Vernon, was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
These sentencings represent the culmination of an investigation that included an informant who recorded conversations involving the Vernons, Cox, and fellow militia member Coleman Barney conspiring to kill numerous state and federal officials in retaliation for what they believed was an imminent attempt by law enforcement to arrest Cox. In addition, the Vernons, who had been in litigation for several years with the Internal Revenue Service concerning their failure to pay taxes, conspired to murder Judge Beistline and others in retaliation for the court’s rulings in that matter.
On June 18, 2012, a trial jury returned guilty verdicts against Cox, Coleman Barney, and Lonnie Vernon on a majority of charges alleged in the indictment and acquitted them on several other charges. Cox and Lonnie Vernon were found guilty of conspiring to murder federal officials, and several weapons offenses. Barney was convicted of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices, as well as possession of unregistered destructive devices. A mistrial was declared as to one of the counts which charged Barney with conspiracy to murder federal officials and that count was later dismissed.
In August 2012, Lonnie and Karen Vernon pled guilty to a separate two-count indictment charging violations of threatening to kill Judge Beistline, who presided over their tax case as well as the IRS case agent who investigated the case. The Vernon’s owed the government approximately $120,000 in back taxes.
Karen Loeffler, U.S. Attorney for the District of Alaska, stated, “These sentencings are the result of a long and successful investigation in which law enforcement and the prosecution team was able to intercept and prevent violent individuals before a tragedy occurred. This was difficult for the individuals and families threatened by the defendant’s criminal behavior. I am proud and relieved that the hard work and successful collaboration of agents, troopers, individuals, and prosecutors brought these cases to a safe and just conclusion.”
Special Agent in Charge Mary Rook of the Anchorage Division of the FBI, said, “The successful prosecution of Schaeffer Cox, Lonnie and Karen Vernon, and Coleman Barney was the culmination of a joint investigation conducted by the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force and the Alaska State Troopers. The sharing of information and teamwork exemplifies the level of cooperation among federal among federal, state, and law enforcement in Alaska. I am proud of the relationships developed among the various law enforcement agencies.”
Ms. Loeffler commends the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives; the United States Marshals Service; the Alaska State Troopers; and the Fairbanks Police Department for the investigation of this case.