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Claiming prosecutorial misconduct, former Alaska militia leader seeks new lawyer

Dermot Cole

FAIBANKS -- Acting as his own legal representative, convicted militia leader Schaeffer Cox filed an appeal with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals earlier this month, claiming that he is the victim of government misconduct.

In a document he sent from federal prison in Illinois to the San Francisco-based court, Cox claims that federal officials lied, withheld key information, failed to supervise informants, tampered with evidence and witnesses and set up a sting to entrap him.

Cox said he was the innocent victim of the same prosecution team that mishandled the case against the late Sen. Ted Stevens and others, but his court-appointed attorney won’t raise the issues he wants to pursue.

“Suppression, concealment, false statements and use of known perjured testimony are the hallmarks of this prosecution team and of this present case,” Cox wrote.

Cox wants to have his case returned to U.S. District Court in Alaska and asked that a new attorney, Robert John of Fairbanks, be appointed to represent him.

Cox, the former leader of a small group in Fairbanks called the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, is serving a 26-year prison term for conspiracy to commit murder and a variety of federal weapons violations.

In recent letters seeking help from Amnesty International, Cox said that the only reason he allowed his defense to provide testimony during sentencing that he was suffering from mental illness was because he wanted to avoid a life sentence.

After Cox filed his appeal, dated Dec. 4 and received by the appeals court Dec. 11, it appears that his attorney in Seattle filed a separate document with the court, seeking a competency hearing. That motion was filed with the court “under seal,” meaning it is not available for public review.

Cox claims that he became a target of the so-called “Polar Pen” investigation set up by the Justice Department to sniff out corruption among Alaska politicians.

According to Cox, the two key federal attorneys prosecuting his case took their names off of future legal filings about his case three months after he was arraigned, “once it became apparent that the misconduct would be made public,” he wrote.

He said his attorney, Suzanne Elliott, is not familiar with the federal investigation of political corruption in Alaska and won’t take on the feds.

Writing about himself as the “Movant,” he said that his attorney is “adamantly disinclined to raise appellant’s issues in regard to the denial of admissibility of evidence Movant needed to assert entrapment, prosecutorial misconduct” and  other violations, he charged.

Cox said he wants his attorney to file complaints with the Justice Department about misconduct, but she has declined and urged him not to do so. He said that John, the attorney he hopes will represent him on appeal, also wants Elliott to file complaints.

“She has stated she will not ‘rock the boat’ or cast aspersions on the government,” Cox wrote about Elliott. He has made similar claims about his first attorney in the case, who was fired after the jury found Cox guilty.

“She has stated she will rely solely on the record as it now stands, attribute clean hands to the government’s officials and then look for appellate error to brief,” Cox said.

Cox said he spent his entire net worth, more than $400,000, on his case and that his parents and extended family are on the verge of bankruptcy.

A federal jury convicted Cox in 2012, and a federal judge sentenced him to 26 years in prison in January.

In a note to his appeal, Cox said he admits “to letting his ego run away with him and becoming full of himself. Rubbing shoulders with state senators, representatives and other political leaders  coupled with having hundreds of followers come to his rallies was heady territory for a 24-year-old home-schooled political newcomer. And it was not well handled.”

Dermot Cole can be reached at dermot(at)alaskadispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at @DermotMCole.