Fairbanks Militia Member Coleman Barney Sentenced In Federal Court

Federal judge John Bryan sentenced former Fairbanks Peacemaker’s militia member Coleman Barney in Anchorage today to five-year sentences for each of the two counts he was convicted of. The judge said the sentences will run concurrent and there will be credit given for time served. Barney has already been in jail for about a year and a half. Following his release from prison, he will be on probation for three additional years.

Judge Bryan was meticulous in going through the potential sentence enhancers, taking more than an hour and a half to allow the state and defense to argue the points before finally allowing Coleman Barney to address the court.

Mr. Barney started by saying he loved his family and he wanted to apologize for making poor decisions. He said he did feel remorse and he would do anything to go home to his five children and his wife. Judge Bryan asked him how he felt about the business with Schaffer Cox. Barney said he got involved in the hype, mentioning the Tea Party and that he was with a group of Christian men who were worried about protecting their families if the government collapsed. But he said when the militia talk started, he got caught up in it. He said he was embarrassed and if he could go home, there would never again be a problem with him. The judge said although Barney had obviously been a good family man and successful business owner, there came a time when he should have said, “This is not right, this is not what my church teaches.”

Barney’s attorney Tim Dooley says he believes his client is a good man who got caught up and didn’t know about the wild claims Schaffer Cox was making about the militia’s power until after he was arrested and heard recordings while in jail.

“He was completely unaware of the speeches by Schaffer Cox down in the states where he claimed to have 3,000 people and airplanes and doctors and machine guns. He didn’t know any of that. Including a speech at KJNP where Schaffer Cox said a lot of bizarre things while Coleman was outside of the KJNP radio station, running the security detail to make Schaffer feel better,” Dooley said.

Judge Bryan said he was tired of hearing the group called a militia, saying they were not regulated, well trained or organized as a militia would need to be. He said the case was not about freedom of speech but of violations of criminal laws.

Rachel Barney, Coleman’s wife sat with his parents in the courtroom. After the sentencing, she did not wish to talk on tape but said, “The government messed up, they lied and they should be disbarred.” She said she had thought her husband would be acquitted.

Schaffer Cox and co-defendants Lonnie and Karen Vernon are scheduled for sentencing in November.

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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