Former Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox will return to court for a resentencing hearing Monday, at the federal courthouse in Tacoma, Washington.
Cox, who will be represented by a federal public defender, has served a little over eight years of his 26-year prison sentence for a 2012 murder conspiracy conviction.
Cox was a public speaker and organizer in Fairbanks who ran for the Legislature in 2008. He later organized groups including a small armed force called the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, a firearms rights group called the Second 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, along 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.
Since then, a 2017 ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Cox’s conviction for soliciting murder but not his convictions for conspiring to murder and possessing a number of illegal weapons.
In June 2018, the News-Miner reported that the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a request to appeal that standing conviction. During the appeal, Cox argued 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. The government, however, was unconvinced.
“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.”
A memorandum for Monday’s resentencing hearing filed with the court by the defendant lays out a number of arguments for why Cox has served enough time for the crimes he’s been convicted of. In a similar vein to the argument that was made in 2018 to the U.S. Supreme Court, the memorandum states that the discourse that led to Cox’s conviction was “based on an anxiety-fueled agreement to resist if the remote possibility that ‘Stalinesque’ mass arrests and purges at the hands of government officials came true,” and that “there was no conspiracy to murder because the security detail (a small cohort of Cox supporters) was providing self-defense against the fictitious assassin team.”
Among the other arguments outlined in the memorandum are that no federal employees were ever “placed in actual danger of physical harm” and accuses the government of “imperfect entrapment,” arguing that the government informants “threatened, encouraged and induced Mr. Cox to create or at least articulate a concrete plan of action,” which was a key part of his conviction.
“Mr. Cox has paid dearly for the crimes he has committed,” the memorandum concludes. “Any further period of incarceration is not necessary to further the goals of punishment or deterrence, and further imprisonment will undermine rehabilitation.”
On the other side, the government’s memorandum states that the original sentence should remain unchanged and refers to Cox as “an instigator and threatening raconteur without any amusement.” It begins by pointing to other counts, beyond the conspiracy to commit murder, of which Cox was found guilty. These include possession of various illegal weapons and the construction of an illegal silencer.
“The bulk of Cox’s sentencing memorandum concerns itself with the conspiracy to murder federal officials count and the concept of imperfect entrapment,” the memorandum states. “It ignores the facts, statements and the reasons for Cox’s possession of silencers, the machine gun, hand grenades, and other recorded statements made by Cox establishing his intent to murder if one of his men were captured by law enforcement, he was taken into custody or any member of his family taken into custody.”
According to the memorandum, statements made by Cox point to the fact he wasn’t waiting for mass arrests, but that his plans were a “clear, present and real possibility” that would occur upon his arrest, an arrest of a militia member, or of a member of his family. The memorandum includes photographs of some of the items seized from Cox’s trailer, which includes a hand cranked Browning machine gun, a fully automatic Sten machine gun and various grenade bodies.
In response to accusations of imperfect entrapment, the government argues that its investigation showed that Cox had amassed these items and made his plans before any contact with the informants.
“These aren’t the tools of a defensive ‘prepper’ but are, instead, offensive weapons and weaponry which Cox actively sought, independent of Fulton or Olson and or possessed well before meeting Fulton or Olson,” the memorandum states. “These men (Cox and fellow militia member Vernon) were so dangerous that the FBI posted to law enforcement a ‘do not arrest notice’ due to them being armed and the statements they were making.”
For Cox’s supporters, the resentencing scheduled for Monday is one of two possible options for freeing or reducing Cox’s sentence — the other is a pardon from President Donald Trump. Cox’s supporters have organized several petitions and social media campaigns with a goal of getting the president to consider issuing a pardon for Cox.
Contact staff writer Alistair Gardiner at 459-7575. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors.