FAIRBANKS — The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to take up the case of former Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox.
With a single line of text published Monday morning, the nation’s high court rejected Cox’s appeal. Cox is serving a 26-year prison sentence for a 2012 murder conspiracy conviction.
The Supreme Court doesn’t take up the vast majority of cases brought to it. Cox’s appeal was one of more than 150 petitions to the court rejected without explanation under the heading “certiorari denied” in a batch of orders published Monday.
Cox was a public speaker and organizer in Fairbanks who ran for the state Legislature in 2008. He later organized groups including a small armed force called the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, a firearms rights group called the 2nd Amendment Task Force that held large rallies in Fairbanks, and the Alaska Assembly Post, a court convened by Cox in the back of the Fairbanks Denny’s restaurant.
Cox was arrested in 2011 with a group of his supporters on charges that they had made plans to kill federal employees, including U.S. Department of Homeland Security employees. An Anchorage jury convicted Cox of multiple crimes, including soliciting and conspiring to commit murder and owning various illegal weapons.
Cox argued in his appeal that any discussion of killing federal officials shouldn’t be considered a crime. Rather than a concrete plan, the conversations recorded by two government informants were theoretical discussions about contingencies for unlikely events, such as the collapse of the U.S. government, he argued.
Cox’s public defender Michael Filipovic filed his brief to the Supreme Court — known as a petition for a writ of certiorari — in March. In May, the federal government responded with a brief asking the Supreme Court to not take the case. The government doesn’t always respond to petitions for certiorari. The response brief from solicitor Gen. Noel Francisco’s office challenges the basic facts of Filipovic’s case.
“As a threshold matter, nothing was contingent about the existence of the conspiracy itself; petitioner (Cox) and his co-conspirators agreed to and were prepared to kill federal agents and took overt steps towards that end,” the government’s brief stated.
“And the conditions that would trigger the planned murders included not only the imposition of martial law, but also petitioner’s arrest.”
For Cox’s supporters, Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court order narrows the options for freeing or reducing Cox’s sentence to two main paths: a pending resentencing hearing in U.S. District Court and President Donald Trump’s pardon power.
Cox’s supporters have organized several petition and social media campaigns with a goal of getting the president to consider issuing a pardon for Cox.
Monday’s Supreme Court ruling leaves standing a 2017 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which overturned Cox’s conviction for soliciting murder but not his conviction for conspiring to murder. Now that the Supreme Court has declined to take the case, Cox’s resentencing hearing will be scheduled. But the new sentencing hearing may not change his overall jail time because he had been sentenced to serve time for the solicitation and conspiracy charges at the same time.
Cox is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution Terre Huate in Indiana. He has served most of his sentence at the United States Penitentiary, Marion, in Illinois. His scheduled release date is in October 2033.
Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/FDNMoutdoors