Two years ago Schaeffer Cox was on a junket. The self-made militia leader from Fairbanks, Alaska, was a rising star among people fed up with the Feds. From Chicago, Ill., to Missoula, Mont., he spoke at liberty rallies, protests and seminars. He was both forthright and brazen. Part showman, part preacher, he was a man with a message: "This is war!"
Cox's big talk may have been the start of his undoing. Before long, his words got him onto the FBI's radar, and the FBI and U.S. Attorneys were soon faced with sorting out what was protected speech, and what might be actionable conduct, according newly filed court records.
At the gatherings, Cox urged all who would listen to reject the courts, the law, the corporatization of the Constitution, and to assert and be prepared to defend their natural rights. It wasn't just a dream of some out-of-reach America. The boyish looking leader had a plan. Armed with charm, quotes from the founding fathers and plenty of personal anecdotes, Cox delivered the sermon-like call to action in appearance after appearance.
Jailed in an alleged murder conspiracy in which a state judge was among the intended targets, and also facing federal weapons charges, Cox is no longer able to freely make out-of state sojourns to solicit civil disobedience. As Cox prepares for his days in court (Cox faces both state and federal charges) his defense attorney has questioned whether Cox really did anything wrong or if he is now sitting behind bars for merely exercising his right to free speech. In an attempt to find out, attorney Nelson Traverso pushed for more information about the investigations that culminated in the March arrests of Cox and five others.
In response, the federal prosecutors in Alaska have provided Cox with transcripts of speeches Cox made that caught the attention of investigators. Most of the information remains hidden, filed under seal. But prosecutors did state that in one of the Montana speeches from 2009 Cox bragged about a common law court he had created and how it had earned enough respect that the government "isn't doing anything about it." Cox even suggested the Fairbanks District Attorney was allowing Cox's court to deal with minor matters. When asked how the court would handle a murder case, Cox responded with a remedy no less than eye-for-an-eye:
… Common law jurisprudence says that in the case or murder that person has forfeited their right, and that at that point the victim can choose. If the pain they went through is so horrible if they want to spare other people the pain by deterring others, by putting that person to death, that's up to the victim or the victim's family. They can do that, and that person can be hung; or they can sell that person into slavery for the rest of their life. That person is owned by the person they violated, and they can sell him or they can kill him. And these concepts are right out of the Old Testament.
In this same speech, Cox was said to also boast about the size of militia, nearly 3,500 men strong:
It is not a rag-tag deal. I mean, we're set: we've got a medical unit that's got surgeons and doctors and medical trucks and mobile surgery units and stuff like that. We've got engineers that make GPS jammers, cell phone jammers, bombs, and all sorts of nifty stuff. We've got guys with, we've got airplanes with laser acquisition stuff and we've got rocket launchers and grenade launchers and claymores and machine guns and (sic) calvary and we've got boats. It's all set.
If Cox had amassed this level of warfare capability, the Feds either didn't find it or for some reason aren't yet using it against him. No mention of laser-equipped airplanes, rocket launchers or claymores is made in any of the charges pending against Cox.
At the Liberty Convention, Cox claimed that the Irish Republican Army had invited him to Ireland to talk about his sovereign plan, and he warned that things in his hometown of Fairbanks had grown tense -- all stemming from what he described as increasingly aggressive attempts by law enforcement to meddle with his family life in order to disrupt his ability to spread his message, and he feared he might be arrested.
"We are right on the edge of having blood in our streets," Cox said, adding that he had put the militia on "high alert."
The fight, should one ensue, he predicted, would have a swift winner. "We can have everybody who has anything to do with tyranny dead in one night," he boasted.
Cox had not just spoken about overthrowing the government, but had taken steps to do it, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki wrote to the court in a motion attached to other documents, related to the investigation, he was filing under seal. "… by 2010, Cox had stated that his own judicial system was up and running, and that backing it was a 3,500 member militia, armed with de facto destructive devices," Skrocki wrote.
The other documents include information about tips that had come in to the Montana FBI about Cox's activities.
By April 2010, months before two cooperating, paid sources in Alaska began to aid the investigation, hesitancy remained "as to whether Cox speeches and actions were First Amendment protected, or whether they had at some point crossed the line into actionable conduct," Skrocki wrote.
Within three months the confidential sources were in place and state and federal investigators began to collect audio and video surveillance of Cox and his militia associates. In the 10 months that followed, the group worked to obtain grenades, silencers and had developed a revenge-based death plot that included the kidnapping and murder of law enforcement and a state judge should anyone try to arrest Cox, who was on the run from a misdemeanor weapons charge, according to court records.
The investigation became public when Cox and other militia members were abruptly arrested in March 2011.
Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com