Alaska News Nightly: March 23, 2011

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

Download Audio (MP3)

Fairbanks Militia Members Plead Not Guilty to State Charges
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Five members of a Fairbanks Militia group have pleaded not guilty to an array of state charges including conspiracy to commit murder and kidnapping, and weapons misconduct.   Peacemakers Militia leader Francis “Schaefer” Cox, and members Coleman Barney, Michael Anderson and Lonnie and Karen Vernon allegedly stockpiled weapons as part of a retaliatory plot against judges and state troopers they felt threatened or wronged by.  Prior to their March 10 arrest, Schaefer Cox was a fugitive, resisting a minor weapons charge, and the Vernons were fighting the IRS over income taxes.  The group of militia members share an ideology that denies the legitimacy of government based on their interpretation of a strict adherence to the constitution.

Group Calls Out Congressman Young for Ties to Militia Leader
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Congressman Don Young is being called out for ties to Schaefer Cox.  Young attended a 2nd Amendment Task Force Open Carry Day event in Fairbanks in April 2009.  A post on the Southern Poverty Law Center website says Young, who’s also a National Rifle Association Board member, signed a “Letter of Declaration” written by Cox, that pledged to abolish a government that seeks to further tax, restrict or register firearms.  The post says Young’s spokeswoman Meredith Kenny replied to a query about the connection with Cox by saying “The Congressman has absolutely no affiliation with Mr. Cox,’’and that he attended solely as a staunch defender of the Second Amendment. She went on to say that the letter the Congressman signed expresses the view that we should elect those who will defend the Constitution, and in turn the Second Amendment, as written, or vote them out of power.

Wasilla Soldier Sentenced to 24 Years in Prison
Associated Press
A military judge has sentenced a soldier from Wasilla to 24 years in prison for his role in a conspiracy with fellow soldiers that led to the murders of three unarmed Afghan civilians.

The decision by Lt. Col. Kwasi Hawks today comes after Spc. Jeremy Morlock, pleaded guilty to three counts of murder, and one count each of conspiracy, obstructing justice and illegal drug use at his court martial at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The judge said he intended to sentence Morlock to life in prison with possibility of parole but he was bound by a plea deal that called for a maximum sentence of 24 years.

The 22-year-old Morlock is one of five soldiers from the 5th Stryker Brigade charged in the 2010 killings the Afghan men in Kandahar province. He was the first to be court-martialed.

In his plea deal, Morlock said he and others slaughtered the three civilians knowing that they were unarmed and posed no legitimate threat.

He also described taking a lead role in the January incident — lobbing a grenade at the civilian while another soldier shot at him, and then lying about it to his squad leader.

Parnell Moving to Implement Part of Health Care Act on State’s Terms
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
One year after President Obama signed the sweeping health care act into law, Alaska’s Republican Governor is continuing his fight against it.  Governor Sean Parnell is moving forward to implement one part of the law – but on the state’s own terms, and at its own expense.

Off-Duty Police Officer Shoots, Kills Family Dog
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
A family in Bethel is looking for answers after their dog was shot and killed by an off duty police officer.  Bethel’s City Manager says he’s called for a full investigation into the matter.

Officials Consider Listing Certain Seals as Threatened
Jake Neher, KBRW – Barrow
Federal officials are on the North Slope collecting input from residents on the proposed listing of certain ice-dependent seals as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held a public meeting in Barrow Tuesday, and testimony was overwhelmingly critical of the proposed listing.

Missing Pilot Found Alive Near Beluga Lake
Associated Press
Alaska searchers say a 45-year-old pilot has been found alive, days after he took off from Anchorage’s Lake Hood floatplane port without filing a flight plan.

John Burick, a special agent with the U.S. Forest Service, was found by searchers just before 1 p.m. today at the site of his crashed plane in the Beluga Lake area 65 miles from Anchorage.

Alaska National Guard spokesman Maj. Guy Hayes says Burick is not injured. Hayes says Burick told rescuers he crashed his Piper Super Cub after taking off Sunday.

Forest Service spokesman Ray Massey says co-workers of Burick did not become concerned until Tuesday because he often works outside the Anchorage office.

Miller to Chair Western Representation PAC
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Joe Miller has a new job.  The former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Fairbanks has been hired to chair the Western Representation political action committee.  The conservative Nevada based PAC helped finance Miller’s 2010 primary win over Lisa Murkowski.  Miller says the job entails the full range of political advocacy.

Miller says Fairbanks will remain his primary residence but that the new job will involve a lot of travel. Western Representation PAC co-founder Roger Stockton says Miller is good fit for his organization.

Stockton says he and his son formed the Western Representation PAC in 2009 out of concern for where the country was headed financially.

Roadless Rule Will Likely Prevent Hydro-Electric Development in Tongass
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
Congressman Don Young says this month’s ruling by a federal judge reinstating the roadless rule in the Tongass would most likely prevent the development of future hydro-electric projects in much of Southeast. Young made the statement during a community roundtable in Ketchikan today.