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 for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 24 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director. In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota. Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters. Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley. She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests. ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori