ANCHORAGE — Jurors at the trial of a man who authorities say led an Alaska militia heard testimony from two men who say they took orders from Schaefer Cox, with one describing him as power-hungry and the other saying he still considered the Fairbanks man to be his commander.
Cox, 28, is on trial in federal court in Anchorage with two other members of the group that authorities say followed him, calling themselves the Alaska Peacemaker Militia.
Cox, Coleman Barney, 37, and Lonnie Vernon, 56, are accused of plotting to kill state and federal officials. They also face weapons charges.
Philip Clark, who operates a family business selling hearing aids, testified that he distanced himself from Cox after determining he was becoming a “little Napoleon,” the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday.
But Gary Brockman, a retired civil service employee from Fort Wainwright testified he was happy to serve as a militia member, and he said he would still take orders from Cox. Brockman said he was considered a sergeant in the militia.
Clark testified that it wasn’t Cox’s attempt to build a private army that led him to distance himself from the increasingly regimented movement.
“My concern was that my friend was going from a community unifier to a little Napoleon,” he said.
Cox, Barney and Vernon have been charged with conspiracy to commit murder and various weapons charges in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. The murder conspiracy is punishable by up to life in prison. They have been in jail since March 10, 2011.
This is the second week of a trial that is expected to last between four to six weeks.
The jury on Wednesday also heard recorded testimony from Barney at his federal bail hearing last July, where he acknowledged attempting to buy a silencer from an undercover informant and saying he would kill federal law enforcement officers if he thought they would kill Cox or Cox’s wife.
Clark said he first heard Cox on “Over the Cup,” a talk show hosted by KJNP, the Christian radio and television station in North Pole. Cox was running for the state House in the Republican primary. Clark volunteered for the campaign and donated money.
Cox lost, but a few months later Clark said he got a call from Cox, saying he wanted to form an organization of like-minded men who understood that an economic collapse was under way followed by social breakdown. The first meeting was the next morning at Cox’s home, Clark said. He said about 10 men showed up, and the group was called the Sons of Issachar.
“Mr. Cox definitely had a gift for speaking to people,” Clark said. “Though he was very young, people would understand and agree with the way he put forward ideas.”
Cox and several other Sons of Issachar had an interest in forming what Clark called a “militia in a classic sense,” a group committed to the defense of its community.
The initial training for the Peacemakers Militia took place in November 2009 in Clark’s family homestead in Salcha.
According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Cox introduced a military rank system and training manual, which Clark said he did without consulting with the others.
A month after the second training session, the group voted on whether to join the Peacemakers Militia and most voted against it, Clark said.
Clark said he was surprised to get an email from Cox after the meeting with a list of possible militia duties for members of the Sons of Issachar that asked them to clarify whether they were in or out.
Clark formally quit the militia with an email signed “driven out.” He said the Sons of Issachar had recognized Cox as a leader but had failed to keep him from “succumbing to the seductive quality of power.”
Authorities say Brockman joined the militia as Clark was getting out. Brockman said he was part of the security team who set out to protect “Col. Cox” when he gave an interview in November 2010 at KJNP. He said it was dark that evening and the heavily-armed guards brought powerful lights to the KJNP parking lot.
Had federal agents arrived, Brockman said, he and another militia member would have tried to keep them in their car.
Authorities asked how he would have reacted if agents had come out with firearms. He responded, “I think I would’ve laid mine down.”
Barney said in his own bail hearing testimony that he was near the KJNP parking lot, hiding in the darkness beside a tree. He was wearing two handguns and a rifle equipped with a launcher capable of firing rubber-bullet grenades and pepper spray canisters, he said.
Barney said he would try “non-lethal” force to protect Cox if he was in danger. But he said he would also “protect with lethal means” if he thought it was necessary.
Information from: Anchorage Daily News, http://www.adn.com