Fairbanks militia leader and one-time legislative candidate Schaeffer Cox has successfully challenged and reversed one of major conviction for allegedly asking his supporters to commit murder when he thought a federal hit squad was coming after him.
The court, however, upheld Cox’s conviction for conspiracy to commit murder as part of the so-called “241” militia murder plot where members of the militia planned to kill or kidnap two federal employees in retaliation for acts taken against Cox’s Peacemakers Militia.
The six-page ruling from the 9th Circuit Court of appeals reversed the solicitation of murder charge that was tied to an incident where Cox took to the radio asking for supporters to set up a defensive perimeter to stop an imagined federal hit squad.
The court found there was no evidence Cox actually intended anyone to commit first-degree murder and because “the federal ‘hit team’ that the security team was supposed to guard against did not exist,” the solicitation did not constitute a “sufficient threat to the safety of a federal officer.”
“We conclude that it is clear that no rational trier of fact could find Defendant guilty of solicitation to murder a federal official, for two independent reasons,” explains the ruling.
The lead federal attorney told the News-Miner that he didn’t anticipate the Cox’s 26-year prison sentence would be shortened because he was set to serve the 20-year sentence for solicitation concurrent with his murder conspiracy conviction.
The evidence for the murder conspiracy conviction that was tied to the 241 militia murder plot was more sufficient, the court ruled. That plan included the stockpiling of weapons and identification of certain federal employees for the plot.
“Defendant and his co-conspirators agreed to attack government officials—including federal officers—in the event of certain conditions that they subjectively thought were likely to occur. A rational trier of fact could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the agreement was not merely one for self-defense,” the court wrote. “A rational trier of fact could also conclude that “the agreement,
standing alone, constituted a sufficient threat to the safety of a federal officer so as to give rise to federal jurisdiction.”
Other points brought by Cox about how the original trial was run were also dismissed by the court.
Trip down militia memory lane
The saga of Schaeffer Cox and organized militias is one of the great and bizarre stories out of Fairbanks in the last decade (and sadly one that preceded my arrival in Fairbanks, though I covered at least one local election where remnants of Cox’s friends were all over the ballot). One of the great sources for reporting on the case was The Mudflats and blogger-turned-spokeswoman Jeanne Devon, who covered the trial and fallout in great detail and with some of the finest courtroom sketches out there.
Devon’s recently co-authored a book with federal informant Bill Fulton, one of the key witnesses in the Cox trial, in highly praised “The Blood of Patriots: How I Took Down an Anti-Government Militia with Beer, Bounty Hunting, and Badassery.”