Last week, Lonnie Vernon was the only militia member indicted on federal charges, for allegedly threatening to murder U.S. District Court Judge Ralph R. Beistline and one of his family members. The new charges, announced yesterday, will replace the old ones, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports.
One of the new charges alleges that Lonnie Vernon's wife, Karen Vernon, threatened to kill Beistline as well. Judge Beistline had been presiding over the Vernons' tax evasion case. The charges also allege the Vernons plotted to kill an IRS agent, also likely related to the court case over $165,000 in taxes, interest and penalties that the government says they owe.
The second indictment alleges that Schaeffer Cox, the leader of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Lonnie Vernon and Coleman Barney conspired to possess illegal weapons. Cox is also accused of illegally possessing a Sten sub-machine gun and a silencer.
"The federal charges are not about anybody being a militia member or not being a militia member," U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said Thursday, according to the News-Miner.
The Vernons, Cox, Barney, and Michael Anderson are facing additional state charges, including "conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, conspiracy to commit arson, misconduct involving weapons in the third degree, hindering prosecution in the first degree and tampering with evidence."
The plot allegedly evolved after Schaeffer Cox, a self-described member of the Sovereign Citizens movement, skipped his February court date for a weapons charge. He allegedly enlisted his "command staff" from the militia to help him avoid arrest for missing the trial by saying they would use "twice the force and consequences" in response to any "attempts to arrest or kill" Cox by law enforcement.
The Vernons, Cox, and Barney will likely be arraigned in federal court on Monday.