Militia member gets 5-year prison term on weapons charges

Defendant said he got caught up in the hype and said things he didn’t mean

By Rachel D’Oro
Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — An Alaska militia group member found guilty of weapons charges was sentenced Monday to five years in federal prison in a case involving others convicted of conspiring to kill government officials.

Coleman Barney of North Pole held his head in his hands and sniffled loudly while he waited for U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan to impose the sentence Monday in Anchorage.
“I think you got into some real bad stuff here, and this sentence reflects it,” Bryan said.

Barney, 38, and two other defendants have been in custody since their March 2011 arrests. The judge said Barney’s time already served will count toward his term.

Barney was convicted in June of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and grenades, and possession of an unregistered 37 mm projectile launcher loaded with a “hornet’s nest” anti-personnel round that contained rubber pellets. Bryan’s sentence was five years for each of the two charges, with the terms running concurrently.

Barney’s attorney, Tim Dooley, said he plans to appeal his client’s conviction and is considering appealing the sentence.

Schaeffer Cox, the leader of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Peacemaker Militia, and another militia member, Lonnie Vernon, are scheduled for sentencing Nov. 19 on more serious charges, including conspiracy to commit murder. Members of the tiny militia claimed the group would protect families and property if the federal government collapsed.

A jury at the men’s trial deadlocked on a murder conspiracy charge against Barney and acquitted him of two other charges: possession of hand-grenade parts that Cox had loaded into Barney’s trailer as Cox prepared to move out of Alaska, and a count of carrying firearms during a crime of violence.

Before he was sentenced, Barney apologized for making poor choices and decisions. A member of the Mormon church, he said he loved his country and that the militia started out as a group of “wonderful Christian men” who wanted to protect their families in case of a collapse. He said he got caught up in the hype and said things he didn’t mean.

Barney asked the judge to let him go back to his family.

“There won’t ever be any problems with me,” he said. “I’m not a violent man.”

Prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence, saying Barney knew about the murder conspiracy, even discussing it at length with Cox and others.

Barney was a confidante of Cox and then tried to minimize his actions, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Yvonne Lamoureux. She noted there was no dispute that Barney is a family man and a hard worker, “which makes it all the more difficult to understand how he got to this point.”

Dooley said prosecutors were trying to sentence Barney for things he wasn’t convicted of. He pushed for a sentence of time served or house arrest.

“Beyond that would be corruption of justice,” Dooley said.

Authorities have said the men advocated the “241” retaliation plan, which stood for “two-for-one” — killing or kidnapping two officials for any member of Cox’ group who might be killed or arrested, an event that never happened. During its investigation, the FBI used an informant to infiltrate the group. He recorded more than 100 hours of conversations.

The plot arose after Cox was charged with misdemeanor weapons misconduct. He represented himself at a pretrial hearing, where he rejected the Alaska court system as a legitimate judiciary. Cox said he would not attend another hearing until the court system explained its authority over him.

A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear for trial in that case in February 2011. Until his arrest, Cox went into hiding with his family at Barney’s home, prosecutors said.