Militia leader bragged of common-law court

Richard Mauer

The FBI began its investigation of Schaeffer Cox and his right-wing militia in Fairbanks after a series of speeches in Colorado and Montana by Cox in which he boasted of his weaponry and his government-in-waiting, according to federal prosecutors.

In a speech in 2009, Cox claimed to already have a "common-law court" in operation that was meting out justice in Fairbanks. While to that point it had only dealt with contract disputes and petty crimes, Cox said, if a murder defendant were convicted, the penalty would be biblical: The victim's family could demand death or a lifetime of slavery.

The court was backed by 3,500 members of his Alaska Peacekeeper Militia, Cox claimed.

"It is not a rag-tag deal," he said, according to an excerpted transcript of the speech. The excerpt was filed publicly Friday by federal prosecutors, who have charged Cox with weapons violations. The full transcript and seven other documents were filed under seal. Prosecutors provided no details about where the speech was made, how many people attended or who recorded it.

Cox, 27, in jail in Fairbanks, also faces state charges of conspiring to commit murder, kidnapping and arson. Four associates are charged with him and in related cases. Among their alleged targets are judges and state troopers.

"I mean, we're set," Cox told the Montanans, according to the excerpt. "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 calvary and we've got boats. It's all set."

There was no way to confirm his boasts. The federal charges accuse him of possessing machine guns, silencers and hand grenades, not any high-tech devices that could be used in battle.

The filing was in response to a request by Cox's attorney for a court order requiring federal prosecutors to more fully open up their files to him.

The attorney, Nelson Traverso of Fairbanks, said earlier this month that he had already received thousands of pages of material from the U.S. Attorney's Office but hadn't been given any detailed information about how the investigation began. Traverso raised the issue of whether the investigation violated Cox's free-speech rights.

"The discovery thus far provided does not provide any explanation of what statements were made by Mr. Cox in his speeches that violated criminal laws, where they took place, when they were delivered, and the circumstances in which they were made," Traverso wrote. All he had was a transcript of an interview of Cox by an FBI agent and a state trooper after Cox's arrest on March 10 in which the agent, Richard Sutherland, told Cox:

"The FBI has investigated -- been investigating you for a period of time based on allegations that you support or advocate violence or overthrow against the government. And a lot of those allegations came because some of the speeches you make when you travel down south, specifically to Montana and other occasions."

Prosecutors responded that they had already provided more than the law required but agreed to provide the additional material. They said the material clearly showed "the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office (was) aware of the line between First Amendment protected speech, and conduct which is actionable."

The federal government put Cox on a watch list on Feb. 16, 2010, as "information was developed concerning Cox's comments to the FBI about overthrowing the federal government by violent means." The FBI in Montana, and tipsters there and in Colorado, reported on several of Cox's speeches, including the 2009 one in Montana quoted in the document.

"In that speech, among other things, Cox informs the audience that he and his followers have developed their own court system, a 'common-law court' which is designed to supplant the court system presently in place. Cox states that 'people are coming to the common law court (that) it's building such respect and such rapport that the government isn't doing anything about it.' "

Cox claimed that the Fairbanks District Attorney's Office was aware of the "court" and was "not messing with us" other than to occasionally attend a session to "heckle" them.

"We created a judicial, an executive and a militia," Cox was quoted as saying.

Fairbanks District Attorney Michael Gray was out of the office and couldn't be reached for comment Friday.

Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.

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