A judge has reduced Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox’s sentence after part of his conviction in a murder conspiracy was thrown out on appeal.
The re-sentencing this week in Washington state came after an appeals court in 2017 threw out Cox’s conviction on a criminal count of solicitation to commit murder.
After witness testimony all day Monday, a judge on Tuesday reduced Cox’s overall sentence of 25 years to serve by 10 years. Since he has served about seven years so far, that leaves him with a sentence of roughly eight years.
Cox, now 35, was a self-described sovereign citizen and leader of the Fairbanks-based Alaska Peacemakers Militia. Cox was charged in 2010 for failing to notify a police officer who contacted him that he was carrying a handgun. Federal prosecutors presented evidence in court that Cox hatched a plan called “241,” in which he and his fellow militia members would kidnap or kill two government or law enforcement officials for every one of the militia who might be arrested or killed.
Federal authorities relied on two undercover informants who recorded conversations with militia members trying to buy weapons, including grenades, to carry out the plot.
In his appeal, Cox’s lawyers contended the solicitation conviction was unjust, as it was simply based on Cox at one point having brought armed and armored bodyguards to a radio appearance in North Pole. The three-judge appellate panel agreed.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki said Wednesday the solicitation charge was a significant aspect of the trial, which went five weeks and included 80 witnesses and 1,000 pieces of evidence.
“That was certainly was one piece, but not by any stretch of the imagination the only piece. Certainly an agreement to murder individuals is something that our office of course, and the FBI took very seriously,” Skrocki said. “But on the other side, Mr. Cox still remains convicted of conspiracy to murder federal officials, so that’s also a very serious offense of course.”
Skrocki said he was not discouraged by the sentence reduction, nor worried that Cox would be getting out sooner.
“This is part of the judicial process. Mr. Cox had a good team of defense attorneys representing him,” Skrocki said. “This was the court’s call, and that’s the call that the court made. And we certainly respect that decision, and that’s how the process works.”
Cox’s lawyers did not immediately respond to a request for comment.