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Feds to judge: Don't let militia defense attorneys blab

Jill Burke

The assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting the federal crimes lodged against militia members from Fairbanks wants a judge to tell the defense attorneys to keep their out-of-court comments to a minimum. The move comes "in an abundance of caution," according to the request filed Tuesday by prosecutor Stephen Skrocki.

Skrocki's effort came one day after comments made by attorney Tim Dooley about the case were published in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Dooley represents Coleman Barney, charged in state-federal cases with weapons violations and conspiracy to commit kidnapping and murder.

For months, much of the information publicly known about the accusations against Alaska Peacemakers Militia leader Schaeffer Cox and his associates has come solely from court records, which detail, from the perspective of investigators, the group's crimes.

In an interview Friday, following the sentencing of a confidential informant who aided the investigation, Dooley disputed the narrative put forward by authorities and their cooperating sources.

"'We never threatened to kill anybody. The only guy threatening to kill anybody was J.R.,'" Dooley said, relaying a statement made to him by his client.

"J.R." refers to militia informant Gerald Olson, the man investigators relied on for much of their knowledge about, and access to, Cox and his group.

Dooley has thus far only listened to 10 or 15 hours worth of some 130 hours of audio and video surveillance obtained over the course of at least 10 months leading up the arrest of Cox and his associates.

But if what he's heard turns out to be a common theme for the entirety of the recordings, things are looking up for Barney, Dooley said.

So far, "I've never heard my guy threatening anybody with anything," Dooley said.

It's that comment -- talking about recordings investigators have so far only publicly said they have possession of, but not yet revealed -- that has raised Skrocki's concerns.

"The comments appear to be comments made on evidence not yet in the public record, are comments made without a complete review of all of the evidence and which are testimonial in nature. The attributed statements and comments could potentially impact the jury venire of this case," Skrocki wrote.

Furthermore, had the government made similar comments, defense attorneys would surely have accused its attorneys of "outrageous government conduct," he said.

Skrocki hasn't asked for an outright gag order, but he does want the court to instruct the parties that when it comes to the media, "contact should be discrete and based only on those facts in the public record."

Skrocki has asked that a judge deal with the issue at a bail hearing for Barney Thursday morning.

In part two of Alaska Dispatch's series on Gerald Olson -- a convicted con artist, and what he got for cooperating with investigators -- Dooley explains why he thinks the government "screwed up by putting their faith in this guy." 

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com