Militia Leader says he Discouraged Use of Violence

An Alaska militia leader showed his softer side Tuesday when he cried while testifying about gathering his family's most precious belongings, including photos of his children and his wife's wedding gown, as he prepared last year to flee the country.

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by MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press

An Alaska militia leader showed his softer side Tuesday when he cried while testifying about gathering his family's most precious belongings, including photos of his children and his wife's wedding gown, as he prepared last year to flee the country.

Schaeffer Cox's testimony touched on other issues as well, including making a silencer to fit a .22-caliber pistol, building a World War II-type machine gun and flirting with the idea of buying a real grenade for "two seconds of fun."

The 28-year-old leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia is on trial in federal court in Anchorage with two other militia members, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon, accused of conspiring to murder government officials and collect illegal weapons.

"I didn't want to kill anybody," Cox said, when questioned by his lawyer, Nelson Traverso.

Cox said repeatedly he was the one who was afraid and wore a bullet proof vest and carried a gun most of the time as he led the Fairbanks militia. The force, he said, was intended to protect its members when out-of-control government spending resulted in a collapse.

Cox began his testimony Tuesday by saying his message to militia members was based on the teachings of some of the world's greatest leaders of peace and forgiveness: Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

But, he said, as time went on he felt a threat coming from other militia members who were pushing for a violent confrontation with the government.

Cox acknowledged owning guns, rifles, ammunition, a combat scope, body armor, gas masks and a whole box of police duty holsters. He said the machine gun he started building as a teen never worked. He liked pineapple grenade bodies because "those are the ones that are in the movies," he said.

Cox said he thought it would be fun to hold a grenade-body toss for militia members using training fuses. He said he arranged for "Grenade Golf Night" at the Fairbanks Country Club, but the event never came about.

Prosecutors say Cox was up to more than fun and games. They have portrayed him as a dangerous man who was plotting to one day kill judges, state troopers and other government officials.

"Did you have a plan to kill judges," lawyer Nelson Traverso asked.

"No," Cox responded.

Cox said the "241" plan was not his idea, and he strongly opposed it. The plan called for the killing of two government officials for each militia member who was killed if violence broke out.

Cox said the plan was put forward by Bill Fulton, an FBI informant who operated a military surplus store in Anchorage. Cox said Fulton was encouraging militia members to go to war and asking him in June 2010 to "lead a big, violent outburst."

Cox said tensions increased after he decided not to attend his own trial for a misdemeanor weapons misconduct charge for allegedly failing to disclose his possession of a concealed handgun in the presence of a police officer. He said Fulton wanted to use the situation to escalate.

Cox told the court he wasn't able to control Fulton.

He told militia members that what was needed was "a Gandhi and not a Rambo" approach.

Cox said he talked to judges, law enforcement and government officials about what he described as "tough guys" and "dangerous, bad folks" in the militia movement. But, he said, his statements were warnings, not threats.

When the government seized his smartphone, the reference in it to a "hit list" was not about killing people but was about making a recording of some really good songs about freedom, Cox said.

By February 2011, Cox said he had decided to flee with his family to Canada. He was arrested the following month.


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