FAIRBANKS—Former Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox previously took a dim view of the state and federal courts but in his opening appeals brief last week said he's willing to play by the court's rules to win his exoneration.
Cox is a former Fairbanks legislative candidate and founder of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, an organization that purported to be a self-defense group. Federal agents started investigating Cox and the group in 2010 after Cox boasted that the group had more than 3,000 people during speeches in the Lower 48.
Agents arrested him in March 2011 on charges that Cox and others in the group were actively planning to kill government employees. He was sentenced to a 26-year prison term in 2013 after an Anchorage jury convicted him of owning illegal weapons and of conspiracy to commit murder.
Before his arrest in March 2011, Cox frequently expressed beliefs associated with the sovereign citizen ideology, whose proponents say the government does not have jurisdiction over them. In court fillings last week, Cox said the label "sovereign citizen" doesn't fit him.
"As to the 'Sovereign Citizen' stuff, I was not even familiar with that label until the prosecution accused me of being one," he wrote in a brief filed May 8. "As far as I can tell, it is a nonsensical contradiction in terms."
In any case, he doesn't plan to make arguments about the government's authority to prosecute him because he understands they would not be likely to sway the appellate court.
"I can assure you that I am not about to blow my one shot at a meaningful appellate review by filling a bunch of 'gobbledygook' that this Court cannot understand, much less grant relief on," he wrote.
Cox is asking the appeals court both to overturn his conviction and, more immediately, to allow him to represent himself on appeal. Cox dismissed his trial attorney, Nelson Traverso, shortly after the trial, and he hasn't agreed with two subsequent public defenders on how best to present his appeal.
In the brief, Cox argues the case should have been thrown out before trial based on the "outrageous" conduct of two federal informants who infiltrated Cox's militia and surveilled him for about six months. The conduct amounts to kidnapping and the trial judge should have given the jury instructions on the entrapment defense, Cox said.
In particular, Cox singled out informant Gerald "JR" Olson, who stole his car battery to keep him from leaving the country to avoid a confrontation with police, Cox said. Additionally, he said informant Bill Fulton tried to force him to mobilize the militia by threatening Cox's friend Les Zerbe at knifepoint. Cox's trial addressed the later incident in detail. Witnesses made conflicting statements about whether Fulton in fact held a knife when he threatened Zerbe.
"The government pursued an idealistic young man who dared to speak out against the established order, terrorized and pressured him via Fulton and Olson, and then prosecuted him as an example to others who may share (my) views and beliefs," Cox wrote in the appeal filing.
Cox is jailed at the United States Penitentiary Marion in central Illinois.
Contact outdoors editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.