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April 25, 2018

Militia Trial – Day 1

Day 1

I showed up at the Federal courthouse at about 8:15 this morning, and was met outside by an armed officer who told me that there would be 100% screening today. That meant everybody, and there was a line. I counted six uniformed guards, and two dogs. It was an interesting, although not totally unexpected way to start Day 1 of the Scheaffer Cox, Coleman Barney, and Lonnie Vernon trial. I dutifully removed my jacket, and put my stuff on the conveyer belt. I could bring my laptop and phone into the courtroom as long as I didn’t turn them on, I was told. My shoes set off the scanner, so I had to get wanded, remove the shoes, wand the shoes. Then across the room, and the whole process began again.

I was the first one in the courtroom this morning, watching the room being prepared. A great discussion ensued about who would sit where. “Lonnie HAS to sit at the dais. He HAS to sit at the end. That’s not negotiable. Completely non-negotiable.” This was repeated more than once.

“Here are the pens for Lonnie,” said someone holding out a couple pens. He has to have these pens. He has to use these. That’s not negotiable.”

Now, my curiosity was really piqued. Who was this person for whom all these arrangements were non-negotiable? What’s next, a bowl of green M&Ms?

My question about the pens, at least, was answered in short order . It seems that Mr. Vernon is not a Writing Instrument Diva… the special pens were “for security purposes.” Wow.  I guess if you’re on trial for plotting to kill federal judges, and you’re in the room with a federal judge, you’re lucky you don’t get crayons or chalk.

Schaeffer Cox was first into the room. He looked ashen, and a little nervous, in handcuffs and a pale blue shirt, and noticeably missing his signature tweed cap. He was uncuffed and then he sat, looking big-eyed and furtively glancing around the room. He looked so pale, in fact, that I had the urge to ask him if he was feeling OK, and suggest that he lie down or have some soup. He’s definitely not the “criminal type” as far as looks go. Central Casting would never put this guy in the role of militia leader. Freckles, big doe eyes, a nice smile, a tweed cap… More like a newsboy of yore, rather than someone buying illegal weapons for nefarious purposes.

I heard a couple voices pipe up, “Hi, Lonnie!”  I looked over and Lonnie Vernon was coming in to the room, also cuffed and with a light blue shirt, and straight out of a Cohen brothers movie. He had a little bit of a swagger. He’d be the gas station attendant with people buried in the basement – sideburns, balding with a little combover, hollow cheeks and predator eyes, tall and lanky… totally someone you would only want to have a magic marker in a court room. Kind of a cross between Jack Nicholson and Steve Buscemi.

And then, contestant #3, Coleman Barney. I wondered how many times in his life he’d been called Barney Coleman. I bet a lot.  Mr. Barney came in in a black suit, white shirt, and dark tie, a nice hair cut, and very scrubbed. “Why is one of the attorneys in handcuffs?” was my first thought. Actually, he looked way more attorney-like than a couple of the other attorneys did.

These three together made for quite a visual array. You’d never pick them to be partners in anything, and yet here they all were.

The judge had certain matters of pre-trial motions to deal with. He couldn’t figure out a bunch of text messages. Could they admit a letter found in one of the defendant’s cars? What about the blasting caps, and trip wire? Could they reference Ruby Ridge? Could comments made by one of the defendant’s wives be excluded?

The judge seemed to take a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” attitude on pretty much everything.

Then we discovered that 89 jurors had yet to fill out questionnaire forms. So we waited.

In the interim, I was treated to one of our local eccentrics (and a Schaeffer Cox fan) going on about how he no longer speaks spanish “to protest the illegal invasion of my country” and how “the females are totally off the edge” and “the blacks have a fatwa against Zimmerman” and the corruption of sexual preference, and how the government sabotaged the project that would have used “an atomic spaceship going to Orion.”

But the money line was, “As an old white male, I can tell you that many of my people are very unhappy.”  I bet.

After an hour of this, the jury was finally brought in – a long, long line of serious looking people that filled the chairs of the courtroom.

The defendants came back too, and Cox looked much better. He was now sporting a jacket and a pink tie. The other two remained as they were.

The Newsminer’s Sam Friedman was in the courtroom today, and reported:

About three-quarters of the jurors raised their hands when asked if they had previously heard of the case. About a dozen were dismissed because they either believed they were too biased or, in a few cases, because they knew one of the parties in the case or because of problems understanding English.

About half of the possible jurors said they were members of the National Rifle Association or other gun rights advocacy organizations, but none said this would impede their ability to make judgments related to gun laws.

There was one notable person missing from the witness list that was read to the jurors – Bill Fulton. He was the FBI informant who owned the military surplus establishment in Anchorage called Drop Zone that was allegedly reported to have been approached by the defendants to procure illegal weapons, including hand grenades.

You may also remember Drop Zone Security as the company that provided security for Senate candidate Joe Miller, and detained a reporter from Alaska Dispatch. So, sadly we won’t be hearing from Fulton on the stand. He was successfully disappeared from Anchorage and his business, and his current whereabouts are not known.

Stay tuned for more.




31 Responses to “Militia Trial – Day 1”
  1. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    No proceedings today? A pity that, we were all waiting with baited breath to hear the rationale behind the pink tie defence. I’d offer a hypothetical argument but I wouldn’t want to spoil their chances for an accquital. Oh well what the hell, why not?

    Opening statement: Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, please observe the incredibly poor fashion sense of my client Mr. Cox, can you even imagine him having the accumen to develop a credible plot to do harm to state and federal officials shince he obviously cannot even dress himself?

    Rebuttal evidence: Yep, I knowed Mr. Cox fur nigh on 50 years now and I only seen him wearin’ a tie twice and both times it was pink. (Defendant is wearing kelley green shirt and pink tie).

    Closing statement: (Defendant is wearing pink shirt and pink tie). Look at my client, I rest my case.

    Seriously though, I suppose the odds are 50/50 that these goons will get off, after all this is AK.

  2. Zyxomma says:

    This does, indeed, sound like a movie by Joel and Ethan Coen (there are plenty of Cohen families, but they don’t include the filmmaking brothers).

    I’d love to see some AKM courtroom art!

  3. Motorhead says:

    If this idiot Cox is a “sovereign citizen” to whom no state or federal laws apply, WHY are we wasting time and money on a trial for him… Just fly him out to a desert island in the Pacific, and drop his sovereign butt off. He can be the Lord of the Flies there… What a maroon.

    • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

      I’m thinking a nice small << 1 hectare ice floe would be more appropos. Perhaps one recently calved off the west Antarctic ice sheet some 2000 km from the nearest land. After all, 'desert' islands are
      hard to come by. Give him a paddle.

  4. Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

    There actually was a project Orion documented by George Dyson in his book of the same name.
    It had nothing to do with “going to Orion”, but it was intended to be a long duration, quite huge
    space vehicle powered by nuclear weapons (fission bombs). So your local eccentric was part right if a bit muddled.

    • Zyxomma says:

      I remember that! So I looked for a link, and here it is:

      There’s also a wikipedia page.

      • Krubozumo Nyankoye says:

        Best use of nukes ever thought of as far as I am concerned, particularly because it would take place entirely in space far from earth. And would consume thousands of them. Of course it is even more feasible now considering the sophistication of fusion ordinance that is 1000’s of times more powerful
        and much more compact. So the concept is actually even more feasible now than when it was first devised.

  5. Andrea says:

    jurors dismissed…because of problems understanding English.
    That would not fly down here in southern Florida.
    Wonderful reporting! It does seem like a Coen movie in the making. Pink tie?

  6. AKblue says:

    I used to enjoy telling people I was from Alaska. Now I think I’ll just mumble when they ask.

  7. North Guy says:


    You guys have all the drama and the fun. Our Conservative Government just destroyed our gun registry laws, so were about 10 years behind you folks in “This sort of Thing-ie”.

    However we have some real, “Red Neck, Red Meat, Right Wing, Wing Nutz, so will soon be leading the charge in your general direction.

    Please keep me posted.

  8. JRC says:

    Cohen movie. Absolutely. Start screenwriting and shop it out over the summer.

    • juneaudream says:

      You know..that business of ‘shopping it out’ over the summer..has merit. From my perspective..I see it as an ..Indy film..done with humor and wit and caricature..and a name suggestive of..the alaskan area..but with a new name..for such a sorry state…of affairs. Yes..write..plot..and follow a name. Baked Alaska..hmmm..

  9. AKjah says:

    Loving the writing. Cant wait for the next installment. Thanks AKM.

  10. COalmostNative says:

    I need more popcorn and my tin foil hat 😉

  11. Bodie P says:

    “As an old white male, I can tell you that many of my people are very unhappy.”

    Why don’t people talk like that around here? Around here, all the old white males say is, “Wimmin’n’power…wimm’n’power…turrible combination…turrible combination.” And then they take a big slurp of coffee and shovel the eggs prepared by the woman who holds the power in the kitchen into their mouths. It’s just not the same.

    • beaglemom says:

      I guess this is why there are all of these terrible state laws against women happening everywhere now! I never knew having the vote and getting to work to help support a family (or to plain support a family) were such dangerous things!

      • Mo says:

        Time to start using that vote more to get these old farts out of office and replaced by women Democrats.

  12. jimzmum says:

    Quote: But the money line was, “As an old white male, I can tell you that many of my people are very unhappy.” I bet.

    Wonder if this was one of your coffee shop regulars?

  13. tigerwine says:

    Great early morning reading!

  14. Buffalogal says:

    Is it wrong for me to hope that perhaps the process of a speedy trial be drawn out just a little bit ? I’m entirely drawn in to this story.

  15. Really? says:

    6 guards and 2 dogs. I hope thats enough to protect everyone involved, especially the federal judge and you, AKM. This is rough group of people that are on trial. Looks can be very deceiving. I liked the Steve Buscemi likeness. Thanks for spending your day with these characters.

  16. Writing from Alaska says:

    …..crayons or chalk…… Had a little outburst LOL on that line. . .

  17. TS says:

    Crime fiction could well be waiting for you to join. Your descriptions of the defendants are second to none. Many thanks

  18. Alaska Pi says:

    oh darn- some of your people are not very happy either, AKM.
    I don’t see any of your famous courtroom sketches here!

  19. slipstream says:

    Shhh! Don’t tell anybody, but that atomic spaceship to Orion was actually launched three years ago. It should reach Orion in about 2052.

    As the spaceship was passing the orbit of Uranus it sent back a super-secret photo of the remains of Don Young’s credibility.

    In about eight months the super-secret atomic spaceship will pass through the orbit of Neptune. Who knows what it will find?

    Shhh! The military is hushing this up!

    • fromthediagonal says:

      slipstream, you ask what will they report back from Neptune?
      A giganticTrident stuck into the planet, what else could it be?

  20. beth. says:

    AKM — Once again, you take us with you on your adventures — how I enjoy experiencing so much (the good, the bad, and Alaska politics AKA the ugly) of the world just by tagging along! Thank you. beth.

    [“…[Lonnie was], also cuffed and with a light blue shirt, and…”.
    I believe the “also” aughtn’t to be in this sentence — he was the only one in cuffs, wasn’t he? b.]

    • AKMuckraker says:

      No, all three defendants were in cuffs when they came in, and had them removed. Glad you like tagging along! It’s always more fun for me knowing I get to share it with all of you.

  21. Mo says:

    Wow, nice piece of reporting! All the fascinating little details…

    Can hardly wait for the next installment!

  22. Moose Pucky says:

    A novella in the works. In Alaska, truth makes great fiction.

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