The Strange Tale of Schaeffer Cox
In the vast pantheon of strange and eccentric Alaskan political figures, a relative newcomer in the field really stands out. And believe me when I tell you that in Alaska, it takes a LOT to stand out.
I submit for your consideration one very young and equally charismatic Schaeffer Cox – founder of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, and organizing member of Fairbanks’ Second Amendment Task Force. At a meeting of the group back in 2009, Cox drafted a declaration stating that the United States Government must be abolished if it further restricts gun rights. Many signed the declaration, including another eccentric Alaskan political figure, our one and only U.S. Congressman, Representative Don Young.
Here’s a clip of Don Young being interviewed by a representative of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence about his signing of the letter. The image is of Young and Schaeffer Cox on the left in his adorable signature newsboy tweed cap. Click through to YouTube, which provides a transcript of the interview with Young ranting about liberals, saying that the 2nd Amendment is the most important one, and eventually kicking the interviewer out of his office for “just wanting to argue.” Classic Don Young.
Cox has also identified himself with the Sovereign Citizens Movement:
The sovereign citizen movement is a loose network of American litigants, commentators and financial scheme promoters, classified as an “extremist anti-government group” by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Self-described “sovereign citizens” take the position that they are answerable only to common law and are not subject to any statutes or proceedings at the federal, state or municipal levels, or that they do not recognize U.S. currency and that they are “free of any legal constraints.”
They especially reject most forms of taxation as illegitimate. Participants in the movement argue this concept in opposition to “federal citizens,” who, they believe, have unknowingly forfeited their rights by accepting some aspect of federal law.
So, you can see that even with what you know so far, this might cause some noteworthy situations to develop.
Things started getting interesting shortly after an unsuccessful run for political office by Cox in 2008. He won 37% of the primary vote running against Fairbanks Republican State Senator Mike Kelly (who has since been replaced by Democrat Bob Miller). He also ran the Ron Paul presidential primary campaign for the state in that year.
In February of 2009, Cox started the Second Amendment Task Force. The flagship meeting was held at Denny’s, (Yes, Denny’s Restaurant) where about 150 people attended. Larger meetings followed, and several “open-carry” days were organized and carried out, where members would openly carry firearms to protest gun control legislation. Cox fanboy Don Young attended an open carry day at a Carl’s Jr. restaurant. That must have been fun.
Soon after that, Cox founded the Alaska Peacemakers Militia to “create stability” just in case the U.S. government collapsed… or was overthrown, or whatever. He claimed this organization had more than 3,500 members.
Here is an interesting interview with Schaeffer Cox taken at the 2009 Constitutional Convention. It’s a revealing 10 minute peek into Cox’s thought processes. And it also includes the charming and unforgettable line, “If you tax us under the tables don’t be surprised if we bite you in the balls”. I’m surprised I haven’t seen that on a coffee mug.
So, that’s pretty much the background you need. And then began a series of unfortunate events…
In March of 2010, Cox got himself in trouble with the law. He was reported to law enforcement by his mother-in-law. Cox and his wife, on a road trip from Fairbanks to visit her, argued. Cox was driving, and apparently, punching and choking of the passenger occurred while the vehicle sped down the highway. Cox said that his mother-in-law had it in for him because of his conservative beliefs. He also said that there was simply on-the-road ‘pushing’ of his wife, but no punching or choking. He pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to two years probation.
That same month, Cox found himself in hot water again when a member of another group he organized, The Liberty Bell Network (which Cox claims is 7,000 strong), sent out an alarm. A bulk email was sent to the group, as happened when any member felt that their constitutional rights were being violated – a phone tree of liberty, as it were. Cox was first on the scene of a warrantless police raid, and failed to disclose to an officer with whom he conversed that he was carrying a concealed handgun. Presumably, the founder of the Second Amendment Task Force would be familiar enough with the law to know that’s considered fifth degree weapons misconduct.
In January, Cox went to trial. But remember, he’s a “sovereign citizen” and is not subject to your so-called “laws.” And anyway, he reasoned, the Alaska court system is really no more than a for-profit private corporation, certainly not fit to make any kind of decision about sovereign citizens such as himself.
So, instead he was given a fair trial by a group of his peers at… Denny’s (Birthplace of the Sizzlin’ Skillet), and much to his relief, he was acquitted of the charges!
Only problem was that the court system, for some inexplicable reason, didn’t recognize the Denny’s “Grand Slam” acquittal, and still planned on pursuing their own charges against Cox. As you can imagine, our protagonist didn’t much like the idea of getting arrested and charged with a crime for which he had already been acquitted by a well-fed jury of his peers. And it was here that the real trouble began.
Cox hatched what he called his “241″ (two for one) plan and announced it to fellow militia members. This catchy little acronym meant that if Cox or other members of the Peacemakers Militia were arrested, then two law enforcement officers were to be kidnapped by militia members. If Cox were to be killed during the arrest, then the militia would kill two other targets, and if Cox’s house were to be seized, then two government buildings were to be set on fire. All of this was learned during an investigation that had been going on for almost a year by the state and the FBI.
The same month, it was time for Cox to face his non-Denny’s court date for that misdemeanor weapons charge. The fateful day came… but no Cox. His no show at court resulted in a warrant for his arrest.
Several weeks later on March 10, 2011, Alaska State Troopers, U.S. Marshals and the FBI paid a little visit to militia members’ homes in the Fairbanks area. Five people including Cox were arrested on charges including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnapping, arson, and federal weapons charges.
Cox told an officer of the court, “we know where all the [state] troopers live, we have you outmanned and outgunned and could probably have you all dead in one night.”
The FBI had been monitoring Cox & Co. for almost a year in February of 2011, when some of the militia folk went on a field trip to Anchorage. They attended a militia convention where they investigated buying grenades, and other illegal weapons. Cox himself had to miss out on the trip because he was attending the birth of his second child.
After their March 10 arrest the defendants faced federal weapons charges, but the most serious charges came in Alaska Superior Court where they were accused of conspiring to kill state authorities through a plan called “2-4-1” in which militia members were to kidnap two law enforcement officers if any militia member was arrested and kill two if any militia member was killed in any ensuing fight.
Pretty serious stuff. But interestingly, although both federal and state charges were originally filed against Cox & Co., only the federal charges stuck. It turns out that the Alaska Constitution’s privacy clause nullifies much of the evidence gained by law enforcement. But the feds shall still get their day(s) in court. The trial of Schaeffer Cox, and his associates Lonnie Vernon, and Coleman Barney is expected to last until mid-June. The first day in court is today.
So, how are they going to defend this guy, you may be asking yourself. The Fairbanks News-Miner (linked below) has an excellent recap.
Defense attorneys have not denied discussion of this plan occurred but say the plan was Olson’s idea and that it should be classified as a self-defense plan instead of a murder plot.
Soooo…. it’s kind of like a precognitive, premeditated self-defense strategy, rather than a giant murder plot. And besides, it was the other guy’s idea. Hm.
This will definitely be interesting.