Prosecutors seek gag order against militia defense attorney

COMMENTS: Motion made after defense lawyer's remarks in newspaper.

July 26, 2011 

Federal prosecutors are seeking a partial gag order against an attorney representing a defendant in the Fairbanks militia cases after the attorney disparaged the character of an informant to a reporter.

The comments of Anchorage attorney Tim Dooley appeared in a Fairbanks News-Miner story Monday about the sentencing last week of Gerald Olson, 36, for engaging in fraudulent business practices.

Olson, who installed septic tanks illegally, pleaded guilty to theft in Superior Court in Palmer but avoided jail time because of his assistance to police and the FBI in unmasking the alleged plot by Fairbanks militia members to kill judges, troopers and other officials.

Dooley represents accused militia member Coleman Barney, 37, against state and federal charges. Dooley was quoted in the News-Miner story as saying that Olson was the one who hatched the conspiracy, not the people charged. The other militia members discussed the plot only because they were "shouting him down," Dooley said.

The article quoted Dooley as saying he had not yet reviewed all the secret recordings in the case provided by prosecutors, but that he hadn't heard any evidence that Barney conspired to kill anyone.

That prompted assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki to file for the gag order Tuesday, saying the comments were on evidence not yet made public and were "testimonial" in a way that could taint potential jurors.

"Given the ongoing media coverage of this event ... the government requests that the court entertain this issue and advise the parties accordingly with respect to its expectations concerning lawyer contact with the media," Skrocki wrote. "While the government is not advocating a "no-media contact" ruling, it does seek court instruction that such contact should be discrete and based only on those facts in the public record."

Skrocki said prosecutors would be barred by ethics rules from directly redressing Dooley's remarks. "If such statements were attributable to government counsel, a motion for outrageous government conduct would most certainly follow," Skrocki said.

According to the News-Miner, Palmer Superior Court Judge Kari Kristiansen ruled that Olson should be rewarded for his cooperation. She put him on probation only as long as it takes for him to pay restitution to his victims.

The alleged Fairbanks conspirators were part of the Alaska Peacekeepers Militia led by Schaeffer Cox of Fairbanks. Evidence filed by federal prosecutors included references to Barney as having the rank of "major" in the militia.

Skrocki asked that his motion about media comments be heard on an expedited basis at the next hearing in the case on Thursday, when Barney hopes to have bail set in his federal case. Federal prosecutors say Barney is too dangerous to be released on bail.

Reached at his law office Tuesday, Dooley said prosecutors were trying to seek advantage through a gag order. Prosecutors too had engaged the press, in part by making exaggerations in court documents that were picked up in the media, Dooley said.


Reach Richard Mauer at rmauer@adn.com or 257-4345.

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