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Prosecutors seek long prison term for Schaeffer Cox

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Posted: Friday, January 4, 2013 9:30 am | Updated: 12:04 am, Wed Jan 9, 2013.

FAIRBANKS — Prosecutors have asked for a 35-year sentence for Schaeffer Cox in a strongly worded sentencing memorandum that describes him as a “sociopath” three times.

District Court Judge Robert Bryan will have wide latitude in sentencing the Fairbanks militia leader in an Anchorage courtroom Tuesday morning. Cox’s attorney, Peter Camiel said he will seek a 10-year sentence, according to The Associated Press.

Cox, 28; Lonnie Vernon, 57; and Coleman Barney, 38, all went on trial in Anchorage for more than a month last spring. During the trial, government prosecutors called dozens of witnesses to make their case that Cox’s Peacemakers Militia made plans to kill U.S. government employees.

The jury convicted Cox and Vernon of conspiracy to commit murder. It convicted Barney on less serious charges related to owning illegal weapons, but was unable to make a decision on the murder conspiracy charge.

In a sentencing brief this week, prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s office in Anchorage described Cox as a “sociopath” who talked callously about killing people in furtherance of his sovereign citizen ideology, which rejects the authority of the United States government. Prosecutors said Cox is a poor candidate for rehabilitation because he has not accepted responsibility for his crimes and his trial testimony in his own defense amounts to perjury.

The sentencing brief states that during the trial, “(Judge Byran) had a front row seat to Cox’s clear attempts to manipulate the jury, observed and heard his continued blame shifting, denial of responsibility and the falsehoods he elected to tell again and again.”

Cox’s pre-sentence brief was filed under seal at the request of his attorney and is not part of the public record. According to The Associated Press, Camiel argued in an interview this week that his client deserves a more lenient sentence because he presented little risk to the public.

“Schaeffer Cox said a lot of very disturbing things. There’s no question about it. But at the end of the day, he didn’t do anything to harm anyone,” he said, according to the AP. “There certainly wasn’t anything imminent about the conspiracy he was convicted of. This wasn’t a group of guys driving a truck full of explosives to the federal building, and they get stopped just in the nick of time. This was people sitting around and talking about doing admittedly terrible things.”

Also next week is the sentencing for Lonnie Vernon and his wife, Karen. In a separate case, the Vernons both pleaded guilty this year to planning to kill a federal judge because of a tax dispute. Their sentencing hearings are both scheduled for Monday.

Contact staff writer Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter, @FDNMcrime.

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