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Prosecutors say militia member should serve 10 years

Richard Mauer

Federal prosecutors say the trusted sidekick of Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox should serve a decade in prison on two weapons convictions.

North Pole electrical contractor Coleman Barney, 38, a major in Cox's Alaska Peacemaker Militia, is due to be sentenced Monday before visiting U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan of Tacoma, Wash. Bryan presided over the six-week trial of Barney, Cox and Lonnie Vernon because Alaska's chief federal judge was among the criminal justice and law enforcement officials threatened by militia members.

Cox and Vernon face sentencing Nov. 19.

In a memorandum filed Wednesday, prosecutors said numerous aggravating factors in the case, including Barney's use of weapons and personal armor in commission of a crime and lies he told when he testified on his own behalf, should result in a stiffer sentence than might otherwise be justified. As it is, prosecutors said, they were recommending a shorter prison term than sentencing guidelines would suggest. Barney has no prior criminal record, they said.

Barney was found guilty of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and possessing an unregistered destructive device. His co-defendants were found guilty of more serious charges, including conspiracy to murder. Prosecutors said evidence during the trial showing Barney playing an active role in plotting the deaths of officials should increase his sentence.

"Here, an educated man old enough to know better, took actions which endangered not only himself and his family, but also the general public," prosecutors told the judge. "This is not a case where someone simply possessed an unregistered firearm in the closet of their home. Barney led the security detail for Cox the night of (the) KJNP (television interview) with about five other individuals who were also armed and ready to kill for Cox."

Barney, meanwhile, submitted 53 letters on his own behalf, most from relatives, friends or members of his church asking that he be released with only the time he has already served. He and the other defendants have been in jail since their arrests March 10, 2011, during a sting in which they tried to buy hand grenades and silenced pistols from a government informant.

"Coleman is one of the most honest men that I have ever met," said friend Richard Matteson. "His dedication to God, family and country rival that of anyone I know. He is a God-fearing man that does not take his covenants to God and his church lightly."


By RICHARD MAUER
Anchorage Daily News