Indictments expected next week in alleged Fairbanks trooper plot

March 17, 2011 

FAIRBANKS -- Grand jury indictments are expected by next week in state court for five people accused of plotting retaliatory killings of Alaska state troopers.

All five were arrested March 10, and an indictment must be brought within 10 days of a felony arrest, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Francis "Schaeffer" Cox, 27; Michael Anderson, 35; Coleman Barney, 36; Lonnie Vernon, 55; and his wife, Karen Vernon, 66, were being held at Fairbanks Correctional Facility on $2 million bail.

All face charges of conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping. Some of them also face additional charges, including weapons misconduct and tampering with evidence.

A federal grand jury also has indicted Lonnie Vernon on charges he threatened to kill U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline and his family.

A state grand jury could change or reject all of the state charges, said Fairbanks attorney Robert John, who is representing Cox.

John also said he is concerned about public perception of the case.

"The law is founded on the presumption of innocence," John said. "In contrast, in this case there has been much prejudgment in the media and elsewhere. I would encourage people as good citizens to withhold their judgment until the true facts are revealed."

Most of the public information revealed about the case is found in a five-page criminal complaint against Anderson and a 17-page complaint against the other four.

The alleged murder and kidnappings plans were made during "command staff" meetings of Cox's Peacemakers Militia, which were secretly recorded by the FBI, according to the charging documents.

The documents describe a plan Cox and the others called "241" (two for one), which was to be used if any militia members were arrested. The group planned to kidnap two law enforcement officials for every militia member taken into custody, the document states.

In the event a militia member was killed or a home was taken in any potential conflict, the group planned to slay twice as many officials or burn twice as many homes, according to the document.

The group had stockpiled weapons, including one fully automatic assault rifle, two tripod machine guns, multiple pineapple grenades stolen from Fort Wainwright, at least one grenade launcher and "dozens of high-powered" assault rifles and pistols, according to the charging document.

The group had made "Wanted Dead or Alive" posters with the faces of Capt. Burke Barrick, commander of the trooper detachment based in Fairbanks; trooper Lt. Ron Wall; Superior Court Judge Michael McConahy; Assistant District Attorney Arne Soldwedel; and Fairbanks state court Administrator Ron Woods, according to the criminal complaint.

Norm Olson, leader of The Alaska Citizens Militia in Nikiski on the Kenai Peninsula, said he was concerned about the use of federal law enforcement in the investigation of Fairbanks militia leaders. Olson has spoken out in the past in support of Cox and in his conflicts with Alaska courts.

"I will always be suspicious of information that comes when the federals are involved," Olson said by e-mail.

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