Jury Selection Begins For Fairbanks Militia Trial

Jury selection got underway in Anchorage federal court Monday in preparation for the trial of Fairbanks resident and Alaska Peacemaker’s militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox. Cox is charged along with Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon of plotting to kill government employees. Cox founded the Second Amendment Task force and claims he is a sovereign citizen. The trial is expected to last at least a month.

Eighty-eight potential jurors started the day. Judge Robert Bryan listened to numerous schedule conflicts from them, ranging from a toy store employee who said his boss would need to go to a trade show in early June, to a baker with an increasingly busy spring schedule to a Mason from Kasilof who said he only works during the spring and summer. Many jury prospects also had travel schedule conflicts, which prompted Judge Bryan to ask if the travel was for business or vacation, saying “I care more about holidays than business trips.” After potential conflicts were noted, Judge Bryan asked how many were members of gun advocacy groups such as the NRA. Amid some chuckles, nearly half raised their hands. “Can you accept firearms registration laws whether you agree with them or not?” Judge Bryan asked. No one raised their hand to say they could not. “Can you start the trial with an open mind, without political views?” He asked. No one stirred. A bit of laughter met his next question, “Do any of you have a beef with the federal government?”

Through it all Francis Schaeffer Cox sat in the front of the courtroom with his attorney, smiling at times, but occasionally somber. Jury selection continued in the afternoon and will likely stretch into Tuesday.

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Lori Townsend is the news director and senior host for Alaska Public Media. You can send her news tips and program ideas for Talk of Alaska and Alaska Insight at ltownsend@alaskapublic.org or call 907-550-8452.

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