Monday, June 18, 2012

Jury Hangs On Murder Conspiracy Charge Against LDS Militiaman Coleman Barney, But Convicts On A Couple Of Weapons Charges

The verdicts in the Schaeffer Cox militia trial were returned by the jury in Anchorage, Alaska on June 18th, 2012, and as I expected, Coleman Barney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, got off lighter than the other two. While Schaeffer Cox and Lonnie Vernon were both convicted of conspiracy to murder, the jury was unable to reach a verdict on that charge for Barney. They did convict him on a couple of weapons-related charges. Other local media stories were published by the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and Alaska Dispatch, with a video story from KTVA Channel 11

The Anchorage Daily News has published a detailed graphic documenting each count and the verdict on the three defendants. From this graphic comes the tale of the tape on Barney:

Count 1 - Conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices: Guilty.

Count 9 - Possession of unregistered destructive devices (37mm launcher loaded with a “Hornets Nest” anti-personnel round, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record): Guilty

Count 2 - Possession of unregistered destructive devices (four hand grenades, which were not registered to either of them in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record): Not Guilty

Count 11 - Possession of unregistered destructive devices (four “Hornets Nest” anti-personnel rounds and two associated 37mm launchers, which was not registered to him in the National Firearms Registration and Transfer Record): Not Guilty

Count 8 - Carrying firearms during a crime of violence (count 1): Not Guilty

Count 13 - Carrying firearms during a crime of violence (conspiracy to murder): Not Guilty

Count 12 - Conspiracy to murder: Deadlocked

-- Read the complete 24-page indictment HERE for the specifics of each count.

Coleman Barney's testimony on June 7th may have been the key to introducing just enough doubt in the jury to trigger the deadlock. As a business owner, a family man, and an active member of the North Pole LDS Ward, he brought significant credibility to the table. During his testimony, he portrayed himself as someone who joined Cox's militia strictly for patriotic reasons, being concerned about end-time prophecies and the potential for catastrophic tribulation in the United States. But as Schaeffer Cox ratcheted up his rhetoric and behaved more provocatively, Barney testified he cautioned Cox to tone things down, because Cox's rhetoric was shining a bad light on the entire group. It wasn't the behavior he'd expected from the group of Christian men he'd signed on with to defend families and homes in the event of economic collapse. So Barney belatedly realized that the militia was going the wrong direction, and was slowly extricating himself from it when the axe fell. So some jurors believe that given more time, Coleman Barney might have left the militia altogether of his own volition. Unfortunately, the Federal government didn't give him the additional time.

The two counts on which Barney was convicted could bring anywhere from 5 to 20 years imprisonment when he is sentenced on September 24th, depending on whether the judge decides to sentence concurrently or consecutively. After the trial, Barney's lawyer, Tim Dooley, announced his intent to appeal, and when asked if he would have done anything differently, said “There’s the trial you plan to do, the one you actually did, and several months later, the one you wish you did”. He added that he was happy that he had put Barney on the stand in his own defense, but was surprised that the jury came back with guilty verdicts for the other two defendants on the charge of conspiracy to murder.

However, there's one more prospective problem for Barney. Because the jury hung on Barney, the federal government could legally re-try him on the same charge without violating the double jeopardy rule. This is how the feds tried Hal Turner three times on the same charge; in the first two trials, the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki has not ruled out pursuing the charge again in a new trial.

Update June 22nd: Prosecutor Steve Skrocki has now declared he will not re-try Barney on conspiracy to murder charges.

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