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Prosecutors winding up their case in militia trial

Posted: May 29, 2012 - 11:03pm
In this April 5, 2011 photo, sitting with their attorneys from left are, Coleman Barney, Michael Anderson, Schaeffer Cox, Karen Vernon, and Lonnie Vernon in court at the Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks, Alaska. Three Alaska men, are currently on trial in Anchorage on charges of plotting to kill government employees. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman) MAGS OUT  ERIC ENGMAN
ERIC ENGMAN
In this April 5, 2011 photo, sitting with their attorneys from left are, Coleman Barney, Michael Anderson, Schaeffer Cox, Karen Vernon, and Lonnie Vernon in court at the Rabinowitz Courthouse in Fairbanks, Alaska. Three Alaska men, are currently on trial in Anchorage on charges of plotting to kill government employees. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Eric Engman) MAGS OUT

ANCHORAGE — Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox had plenty to say after his arrest on federal weapons and conspiracy charges, according to the FBI agent who supervised the government’s primary confidential informant in the case.

Agent Richard Sutherland testified Tuesday that Cox was interviewed for seven hours after he was taken into custody on March 10, 2011. Cox was alternately evasive and in a mood to debate, Sutherland said. He also displayed knowledge of federal gun requirements.

In an interview at the Fairbanks Police Department after the arrest, Cox said it would be “cool,” ‘’sexy,” and “James Bond” to have a silenced weapon and that he didn’t have to justify wanting one to the FBI.

“I would love to have a suppressed pistol,” he said. “I think that would be cool as all get-out,” jurors heard Cox say in the recorded interview.

Sutherland said he would learn later that Cox already had one. Under questioning, Sutherland said he did not believe Cox wanted a second handgun with a silencer for its novelty.

“I didn’t believe that was consistent with the investigation,” he said.

Sutherland is the prosecution’s last witness in the trial of Cox, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon on charges of conspiring to murder government officials and amassing illegal weapons. Defense attorneys say their clients organized out of concerns about an economic and government failure and wanted to defend their families in the event of a collapse.

Sutherland described how Cox and the others were arrested as they expected to take delivery of grenades and handguns fixed with silencers. Cox had traded a rifle for the suppressed pistol, which Sutherland said is illegal to possess without a permit.

Cox knew it too, Sutherland said. At one point, he referred to the $200 required permit and paperwork that must be in hand before taking delivery of the restricted weapon.

Sutherland said the criminal case began with speeches Cox made in Montana in late 2009 and progressed to a full investigation by July or August 2010.

The FBI used two confidential informants in the case, Gerald “J.R.” Olson, who was promoted to “sergeant” in the militia, and gun dealer Bill Fulton. Neither knew the other was helping the FBI and only Olson made secret recordings, Sullivan said

The day of the arrests, Sullivan said, Fulton provided three Pelican hard cases that each contained a .22-caliber pistol fitted with a silencer, plus four dummy grenades, to Olson.

With law enforcement officers observing, Olson met first with Vernon and his wife for Vernon’s arrest away from his home. He repeated the ruse later that day with Cox and Barney. They were arrested without incident.

Before Sullivan took the stand, Alaska State Trooper Sgt. Tim Schoenberg testified that he was at the Fairbanks courthouse during a hearing for Cox in December 2010, when Cox made threats.

Cox told the trooper that his side was outgunned and if his backers wanted the trooper dead, it could happen “in one night,” Schoenberg said.

Under questioning by Cox attorney Nelson Treverso, Schoenberg said he believed Cox had committed a crime. However, the veteran trooper said he did not call for assistance or arrest Cox, who had wanted to serve papers on the judge in the case and was surrounded by supporters. As an officer in the courtroom, Schoenberg said, part of his job was to be a mediator and to help keep the peace.

“I didn’t want to make things worse,” he said.

He also acknowledged he did even write up a report on the incident until this year.

Prosecutors are expected to conclude their case Wednesday. Treverso said he would be ready to call witnesses.

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