Convicted militia leader Cox fires his defense attorney

Richard Mauer

Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox has fired his attorney, Nelson Traverso, leveling some of the blame on the lawyer for his convictions last month on federal weapons charges and conspiracy to murder.

"Mr. Cox is extremely dissatisfied with counsel's representation and expressly requests that any further attorney-client representation be terminated," Traverso said Monday in a formal motion seeking to be relieved from the case. "Mr. Cox believes that counsel's representation was significantly short of his expectations and that Mr. Traverso provided ineffective assistance of counsel which contributed to Mr. Cox's conviction on multiple counts."

Under court rules, the judge who oversaw Cox's six-week trial would have to approve Traverso's withdrawal.

Cox hasn't said whether he will appeal his convictions on nine of 11 counts, the most serious of which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison. But Cox's assertion that Traverso was "ineffective" is a common ground for appeal.

Cox and his two militia co-defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Cox was acquitted on two counts of carrying a firearm during a crime of violence.

In an affidavit supporting his motion to withdraw as counsel, Traverso described a situation in which Cox appeared to have disagreed with most of the trial strategy, though there was no obvious evidence of such a split during the case. Though Cox on several occasions blurted out comments to witnesses and the jury, he never openly criticized his attorney.

Nevertheless, Traverso said, Cox "on numerous occasions expressed dissatisfaction with counsel's presentation, direct examinations, exhibits, witnesses called on his behalf, and arguments raised during trial."

Reach Richard Mauer at or 257-4345.

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