Militia leader says conviction is God’s punishment

FAIRBANKS, Alaska — An Alaska militia leader convicted of conspiring to kill federal law enforcement officers says the charges against him are manufactured but they might be God’s punishment for being too prideful.

Schaeffer Cox, 28, wrote a letter from jail that is being circulated among his friends and supporters while he awaits sentencing in Anchorage. His letter was included in an email bulletin sent to members of University Baptist Church, where Cox’s father is the pastor, and a church member is collecting letters asking the judge for leniency, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

He faces up to life in prison following his conviction in June.

“To be passionate and full of zeal is good, but I was foolish and full of pride,” Cox wrote. “In my foolish pride, I got on my soapbox to wag my finger at the government for every little thing they did wrong. I taunted them until they had enough and manufactured a case against me. While the criminal charges that were brought by man are lies, the spiritual charges brought before God are true.”

Cox was picked as a delegate to the 2008 Republican state convention and made frequent floor speeches while the party platform was being drafted. He tried taking on an incumbent that year in the Republican primary and was defeated.

In more recent years, he led several groups tied to constitutional causes. He helped form the Second Amendment Task Force, which advocated gun rights and displaying firearms in public places. He was a primary member of Liberty Bell, a hotline to call if someone wanted a witness to an interaction with a law enforcement officer. He espoused a sovereign citizen philosophy, claiming the court system and the Alaska Bar Association were corrupt.

He also formed the Alaska Peacemakers Militia which, members claimed, would protect families and property if the federal government collapsed in the wake of the nation’s economic problems after 2008.

In his letter from jail, he said it was foolish for him to try to change the world.

“It was stupid of me to think the root problem of our national and individual moral decay could be fixed if the government obeyed the Constitution. And it was double-stupid for me to think that I, through my own efforts, could make a difference,” he wrote.

Cox came to the attention of the FBI in late 2009 after speeches in Montana that claimed the militia had 3,500 members and was armed with claymore mines and other military weapons. The claim was an exaggeration as the group only had about a dozen members.

As the investigation unfolded over more than a year, the FBI eventually used an informant to infiltrate the group. He recorded more than 100 hours of conversations.

Cox attorney Nelson Traverso claimed during the trial that the case was an overreach by prosecutors and an attempt to silence Cox and his offensive but protected speech. Cox later fired Traverso, saying he was ineffective.

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