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Prosecutors won't pursue conspiracy-to-murder charge against Alaska militiaman

Ben Anderson
Coleman Barney and his family. His fifth child was born since he has been in jail.
Courtesy Rachel Barney
Rachel and Coleman Barney at Chena lake, left, and a sketch Coleman made from jail, re-imagining the their reunion in Hawaii.
Courtesy Rachel Barney
Rachel Barney, wife of jailed militia member Coleman Barney, has unwaveringly stood by her husband during his 15-months in jail, and is a constant fixture in the courtroom during the trial. June 7, 2012
Loren Holmes photo

Prosecutors filed a motion Friday indicating they won't pursue a new case on a conspiracy-to-murder charge against Coleman Barney, the Alaska militiaman convicted earlier this week of two weapons charges and acquitted of four others.

Barney, who was tried alongside co-defendants Schaeffer Cox and Lonnie Vernon -- all members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia in Fairbanks -- was the only one not convicted of conspiracy to murder, the most serious charge the defendants faced. Such a charge carries a possible maximum sentence of life in prison, but the jury deadlocked on the charge for Barney, leaving prosecutors to decide whether or not to pursue a new trial.

Friday's one-paragraph motion indicates that the government will not try Barney again. That leaves him facing prison for only two of the seven counts he was initially indicted on, conspiracy to possess silencers and destructive devices, and possession of a destructive device. Barney's attorney, Tim Dooley, had previously said he plans to appeal the conviction for possession, which carries a maximum 10-year sentence.

Barney was the most fortunate of the three defendants -- militia "Commander" Schaeffer Cox was convicted of nine of the 11 charges against him, while Lonnie Vernon was found guilty on two of the three counts he faced, including the conspiracy to murder.

The verdicts on the 16-count indictment were handed down Monday after a lengthy trial and more than a year after the three were first arrested. The men were accused of conspiring to kill government officials and stockpiling weapons toward that end, including machine guns, silencers, and 37-millimeter launchers.

Sentencing in the case is set for Sept. 14.

Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com