Lawyer wants charges in alleged murder plot tossed

FAIRBANKS-- A lawyer for a man accused of being part of a plot to kill Alaska state troopers, court officials and an assistant district attorney is seeking to have murder conspiracy charges thrown out.

Schaeffer Cox's lawyer filed a pair of motions asking that the charges be tossed because of the way he claims the grand jury was conducted. The lawyer, Robert Johns, accuses prosecutors of being overbearing -- going so far as handpicking a foreman -- and failing to explain the burden of proof needed to return an indictment.

Last week's filings are the latest in a flurry of attempts to get Cox and five alleged co-conspirators released from Fairbanks Correctional Center, according to a report in Thursday's Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

The defendants have been held since March 10. They are accused in Superior Court of creating a murder plot code-named "241."

In one of the filings, John quotes a prosecutor in the grand jury transcript who appears to pick a foreperson out of the grand jury for arriving late, saying "that's what you get for showing up late. It's just like high school."

John says in his filing that that action violated the criminal rule that a grand jury itself or a judge should pick the foreperson.

"Schaeffer Cox has the constitutional right to be indicted by a grand jury, not by a high-school teacher and the class he teaches," John says in the filing.

In the other filing, he argues that the grand jury was not instructed precisely enough about the standard of proof needed to indict Cox. Grand juries do not need the proof beyond a reasonable doubt that's required for a criminal conviction. They need to find evidence that "taken together, if unexplained or uncontradicted, would warrant a conviction of the defendant," the motion says.

Cox is a founder of the Second Amendment Task Force, a gun rights group that has organized several "open-carry" days, and he is leader of the Alaska Peacekeepers Militia, which contends that all individuals are sovereign citizens and that the government has no authority over them. Investigators say Cox was an advocate of the "241" retaliation plan, which stood for "two-for-one" -- killing or kidnapping two state officials for every member of his group that was killed or arrested.

In March 2010, he was charged with misdemeanor weapons misconduct. Cox represented himself at a pretrial hearing when he denied that the Alaska court system was a legitimate judiciary. He said he would not attend another court hearing until the court system explained its authority over him.

A warrant was issued for his arrest when he failed to appear for trial Feb. 14. Cox later told The Associated Press that he skipped the trial because the judge barred any reference to Cox's position on the validity of the law.

Prosecutors said Cox had multiple meetings with the command staff of the Peacekeepers Militia in the weeks leading up to his trial date. An investigator said Cox and others compiled information on potential targets and acquired weapons.