To hear Schaeffer Cox tell it, the secret investigation into his militia wasn't really so secret.
An airport police officer, a church pastor and someone at the Fairbanks electric company all slipped the militia leader clues that he was being watched well before his arrest on murder conspiracy and weapons charges, Cox told jurors Wednesday.
Given the militia leaders' claims that a hit squad of federal assassins was trying to kill him and his family, the testimony struck at possible origins of Cox's paranoia.
"These things just kept adding, adding up," Cox said in his third-straight day on the witness stand. "And I just kept not believing, but there comes a point where you've got to."
What Cox didn't know was that one of his militia lieutenants and an Anchorage military surplus dealer were each FBI informants collecting evidence against him.
As the federal trial entered Day 18 in Anchorage, the defense aimed to convince jurors Cox was a "mouthy" but ultimately harmless idealist. In a rapid question-and-answer session with this defense lawyer, Cox denied making a hit list to kill government employees and denied supporting a plan to kill two government officials for every militia man killed.
"There wasn't any list that I was ever aware of," he said.
Prosecutors, meantime, continued to play for jurors snippets of Cox's secretly recorded conversations with his subordinates. The goal: Use Cox's own words to paint him as a man who lived outside the law while building a private army to intimidate and kill his enemies.
Though Cox once boasted of addressing judges as "your administrativeness" in court, he has avoided any significant outbursts in the federal trial. Twice on Wednesday Cox tried to get District Court Judge Robert Bryan's attention to ask questions or air concerns but was quickly admonished.
Cox left a few of Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Lamoureux's questions unanswered after hearing a clip recorded Feb. 12. In the tape, Cox and Gerald "J.R." Olson can be heard talking about the home addresses of Alaska State Troopers.
Cox describes one of the troopers as "the guy we've been having problems with," and prosecutors say the militia was collecting the information for a kill list.
In the clip, Cox's toddler son can be heard hollering for his father's attention. The boy yells "daddy" 28 times in the 2-minute, 21-second recording, according to a transcript. When it ended, Cox grabbed a tissue and asked for a moment.
"I'm crying about my son," he said.
The 28-year-old faces a possible life sentence on his most serious charge, conspiracy to murder. He spent much of the day on the witness stand as defense lawyer Nelson Traverso followed up on a theme from Cox's testimony earlier in the trial -- that he was more of a Gandhi figure than a Rambo.
Cox said that meant he sought to avoid bloodshed and preached non-violent tactics to his followers.
"You're not Gandhi though, are you?" Traverso asked.
"No. I'm only nine pounds over though," Cox replied.
"You employed his tactics?"
"Yes," Cox said.
Cox said it was Olson, the FBI informant, who pushed the "241" plan to kill or kidnap federal officials. "We only condemned that. We never had anything good to say about it," he said.
Prosecutors played a recording of Cox talking with Olson about obtaining grenades during a February conversation. In the clip, Cox tells Olson he would like fast-burning powder for the explosives "to really send the shrapnel flying."
Cox told jurors the comment was just "macho shop talk" and that he didn't really want to make explosives.
Two other Alaska Peacemakers Militia members also face conspiracy charges.
Coleman Barney, 37, took the stand in his own defense late Wednesday afternoon, introducing himself to the jury as a father of five and a family minded electrician.
Barney first encountered Cox at a meeting of the Second Amendment Task Force in 2009, he said. He was invited to and attended a militia training weekend in January 2010, joining about 10 or 12 other men for physical fitness tests and early morning runs.
"Learned some formations and went and shot at some paper targets," Barney said.
By that summer, Barney had learned the militia was far smaller than the 3,500 men he'd heard about. The group was struggling to find five members to participate in a kind of exhibition game of "grenade golf" that was to be part of a CNN story on the militia, he testified.
Bryan told jurors to expect the trial to extend through next week.