FAIRBANKS — Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox was a prolific writer and filer of legal documents long before he was sentenced to 26 years in prison. Now in his eighth year in jail, Cox has filed four new civil lawsuits in federal court in the past 13 months in addition to his direct appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court to take up his case and overturn his convictions.
In the civil cases, Cox accuses former supporters of stealing more than $100,000 from a legal defense fund raised in his name. He seeks documents related to his criminal case through the Freedom of Information Act and sues prison guards for interfering with his legal mail and his communication with a filmmaker.
Before his arrest, Cox was a conservative political candidate and firearms-rights advocate in Fairbanks. In speaking engagements that attracted large crowds in Fairbanks and the Lower 48, he later became an advocate for the sovereign citizen ideology, which rejects the authority of the United States government.
Cox and three of his supporters were arrested in March 2011 after a lengthy investigation that involved two FBI informants. In 2012, an Anchorage jury convicted Cox on charges of owning illegal weapons and conspiring and soliciting the murder of federal officials in 2012.
Supreme Court petition
In his March brief asking the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the case, Cox challenges whether an agreement to kill someone during a government collapse should really be considered a federal crime.
The case, said Cox’s Washington-based public defender Michael Filipovic, “concerns the outer limits of liability for conspiracy in the federal courts.”
“In prosecuting Francis Schaeffer Cox for first-degree conspiracy to murder federal officers or employees,” Filipovic said, “the government premised liability on a highly unlikely contingency which, even if triggered, did not necessarily involve federal targets.”
The case against Cox was based on three instances in which prosecutors said Cox plotted to kill federal employees. All these situations, Filipovic said, were based on unlikely contingencies. For example, with his friend Michael Anderson, Cox discussed the book “The Gulag Archipelago” and talked about preparing for a government collapse and the imposition of “Stalinesque” martial law. With another group, Cox talked about a “two-for-one” or “241” plan to kill or kidnap two government agents for every one of Cox’s supporters killed or arrested if Cox were arrested on a misdemeanor warrant. The warrant was for Cox allegedly failing to tell a Fairbanks police officer he was carrying a concealed weapon and for failing to appear in court.
Filipovic cited a thought experiment from a legal theory book, in which two men, charged with murder conspiracy after buying lottery tickets and agreeing to murder their wives if they won.
“Cox and Anderson’s agreement was even more attenuated (than the lottery example),” Filipovic said. “They only contemplated killing if the yet-to-be-determined target was carrying out mass arrests and purges in violation of the Constitution and the rule of law; there was no agreement that an external event would automatically trigger the murder of a particular person.”
The Supreme Court takes a small fraction of the cases brought to it.
Filipovic argued the high court should take the case because it deals with a split of opinions between the West coast-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and two other federal appellate courts. Last summer the 9th Circuit court threw out one of Cox’s convictions for “soliciting” the murder of federal officials but affirmed a similar conviction for “conspiracy” to murder federal officials. Cox will get a new sentencing hearing because of the appeals court win, but it may not affect his prison time because he was sentenced to 26 years concurrently for the solicitation and conspiracy convictions.
The government is not required to respond to a petition for writ of certiorari, but U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco indicated in a court filing last week that the federal government wants more time to respond.
In a lawsuit filed in February, Cox accuses supporters during his early years in prison of raising money for his legal defense and spending it without his permission.
The civil suit names 12 defendants, including Cox’s Fairbanks supporter Maria Rensel, who testified for Cox at trial and organized a letter-writing campaign before his sentencing. The suit also names Virginia direct-mail advertising company Eberle Associates Inc., and the US~Observer, an Oregon newspaper that specializes in writing about people seeking exoneration.
Cox says in his civil complaint that a group of his supporters including Rensel created a group called “Free Schaeffer Cox (a project of Alaskans for Liberty”) to raise a legal defense case for Cox’s appeals. By Cox’s estimation, an Eberle direct mail campaign raised more than $2 million, of which the direct-mail firm took 93 percent under terms Cox agreed to. However, Cox said the Free Schaeffer Cox group took control of his share of the money and used it without his permission to pay $100,000 to the publisher of the US~Observer. The newspaper has published two articles about Cox.
Rensel didn’t immediately respond to an email from the Daily News-Miner seeking comment.
Since his break with Rensel and the others he accuses of defrauding him, Cox has worked with a group of supporters who have gotten involved in his case more recently. These include Arkansas resident Angela Clemons, who learned about Cox two years ago and began corresponding with him. Clemons runs Cox’s website freeschaeffer.com (his old website schaeffercox.com redirects there), as well as his Instagram and Steemit page.
In a handwritten letter from Cox posted on the website this week, Cox describes Clemons as his “right hand woman” and says prison staff members are now interfering with his communication with her.
In a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit, Cox seeks information from the FBI investigation that led to his criminal convictions. Cox argues that prosecutors at his trial cherry-picked incriminating evidence from surveillance recordings and illegally failed to give Cox evidence that would have helped his case. According to an order in that case last month, prosecutors plan to hand over 2,734 pages of material requested by Cox but that the FBI first needs to review them at about 500 pages per month.
In his other two lawsuits, Cox sues employees of the federal prison in Illinois where he is incarcerated. He accuses staff of illegally interfering in his correspondence with lawyers he is thinking about hiring, with U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Joshua Ligairi, a filmmaker working on a documentary about Cox called “Plan 241.”
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMoutdoors