Monday, September 24, 2012

LDS Militiaman Coleman Barney Sentenced To Five Years In Federal Prison For Weapons Violations, But Gets Credit For Time Already Served

Former Alaska Peacemaker militiaman Coleman Barney, a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who was found guilty of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and possessing an unregistered destructive device on June 18th, 2012, but not convicted on conspiracy to murder charges, learned of his fate on September 24th, 2012. Judge Robert Bryan sentenced Barney to five years in prison, but credited him with time already served. This means Barney only gets three and a half years additional time and would be free no later than March 2016, with an earlier release possible for accumulated good time. In general, federal prisons offer a good time credit of 54 days per year of a sentence.

Prosecutors had sought a 10-year sentence, laying out their case in an 11-page sentencing memorandum during a September 19th pre-sentencing hearing. They maintained that Barney's use of weapons and personal armor in commission of a crime and lies they claim he told when he testified on his own behalf warranted a stiffer sentence than might otherwise be justified. In response, Barney's defense team submitted 53 letters on his own behalf, most from relatives, friends or members of the North Pole Ward where he worshipped, asking that he be released with only the time he has already served. "Coleman is one of the most honest men that I have ever met," said friend Richard Matteson. "His dedication to God, family and country rival that of anyone I know. He is a God-fearing man that does not take his covenants to God and his church lightly."

Judge Bryan basically split the difference, acknowledging that Barney might have been a good family man, churchgoer and businessman before he linked up with militia leader Schaeffer Cox in 2010, but his choices afterward pointed him in the direction of prison. In the spectator's section, Barney's wife and mother were crying; later, after Barney was led away in handcuffs, his wife Rachel said she thought he was unfairly prosecuted. "I will stand by my husband," she said. "Some day, all the facts will come out. I believe in my husband's innocence."

Any time a member of the LDS Church gets into high-profile legal trouble, the local bishop will report the information up the Priesthood chain of command through the stake president to LDS Church headquarters so that the leadership can be aware of the situation and determine appropriate responses. Recently, Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, indicated possible awareness of the Coleman Barney case when he delivered an address at the BYU Marriott Center counseling LDS members to avoid getting involved in militias or paramilitary groups who organize on the basis of end-time prophecies, to include the now-disavowed White Horse Prophecy. While Elder Oaks did not mention Coleman Barney by name, it is the first time in recent memory that I can recall an apostle speaking out on militia groups.

Since this post was published, two more people who served on the jury that convicted Barney have spoken out:

David Oberg September 25th 1:14 P.M (Anchorage Daily News):
I commend Judge Bryan for imposing a compassionate sentence commensurate with the crimes for which Coleman Barney was convicted. As a juror in the case, I was disturbed by the prosecution's sentencing document in which he was characterized as a cold-blooded killer and called for a 10-year sentence. However, I am a bit disappointed in Barney and his wife for their assertion that he is innocent. While I was not totally comfortable with the government informant's role in procuring the silenced pistols, there can be no doubt that he did express a desire to possess one and took steps to get it, with the full understanding that it would be unregistered and therefore illegal. It is also a fact, established by evidence and testimony, that he on at least one occasion had in his possession an "illegal unregistered destructive device" in the form of a hornet's nest round inserted into a 37mm launcher. I don't think he knew it was illegal, but ignorance does not excuse him from the law. I fully expected Coleman and his family to accept that he had made some bad decisions, and would accept the consequences of those decisions. It pains me that they haven't.

alaskanflyer September 25th 13 Hours Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
A fair sentence for a good man who made some bad decisions supporting a "friend". As a juror in the case it was clear to me that Coleman Barney would never harm another except in lawful self-defense. My faith in Judge Bryan's wisdom has been justified.

alaskanflyer September 25th 1 Hour Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
I was convinced by both the evidence presented and testimony that, had the government not intervened, two of the defendants would have killed somebody unlawfully at some time in the future given the right circumstances. The convictions were NOT about what the defendants SAID. They were for what the defendants DID to further what they had said. Saying you are going to do something illegal is protected (within limits)by the Constitution, but amassing illegal weapons (Sten gun, grenades, etc.)and making plans to actually DO it is a crime.

alaskanflyer September 25th 1 Hour Ago (Fairbanks Daily News-Miner):
Actually, he never took possession of a silencer (the conviction was for "conspiracy to possess an unregistered silencer")and he never possessed or indicated that he wanted to possess a hand grenade. We also convicted him for possession of an "unregistered destructive device", an allegation clearly and convincingly proved by both evidence and testimony.

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