Investigators haven't said why Mary Ann Morgan, 53, was on her way out of state on Oct. 27. And no one has said why the Kenai woman, who in 2001 became a felon when she was convicted of custodial interference, thought it would be OK to have a firearm in her possession.
Morgan has in the past openly shared her views as a so-called sovereign citizen on an Internet forum used by militia members in Alaska. And her writings show she served as a juror in a common law trial held in service to Schaeffer Cox, a trial in defiance of Alaska's legal system. Thus far, neither prosecutors nor investigators have made mention of Morgan's sovereign citizen status or her connection to Cox.
But less than one week after the state's murder conspiracy case against Cox and several of his militia associates fell apart, it's noteworthy that yet another person connected to him and his movement is in custody on state and federal charges, with an agent of the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force getting involved in the case.
Even though Morgan has finished out her sentence in the 2001 child custody case -- she got a five-year suspended sentence and was officially discharged from probation in 2003 -- under state and federal law, the felony on her record makes it illegal for her to own or possess a gun.
So when Morgan tried to drive her Chevy S-10 pickup into Canada from Alaska, it was a situation destined to end badly for her, even though she openly told border agents she had a firearm.
When they ran a background check and found the felony, they turned Morgan, her pick up and all of its contents, including the .32 caliber Beretta handgun she disclosed, over to U.S. border agents, according to an affidavit filed in court.
Within two days, Morgan was charged under state law for the weapons violation. Two days later, on Oct. 31, she was also charged in federal court, and court records reveal that investigators with the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force out of Fairbanks have been assigned to the case.
At her arraignment Tuesday in a federal courtroom in Fairbanks, Morgan refused to give her name to the judge, deferring instead to her attorney to perform the task.
It’s not the first time Morgan has been reluctant to indulge authority. In Internet posts to the Alaska Citizen's Militia forum she describes how this summer she refused to roll down her car window for an officer who had pulled her over during a traffic stop.
Morgan, a political activist known within Alaska's militia movement, is an outspoken person with "real true grit -- a loudmouth," according to Norm Olson, commander of the Alaska Citizen's Militia. Asked to describe Morgan, he called her a strong constitutionalist who spent time traveling the state spreading propaganda for supporters of the Constitution, someone who would ask probing questions boldly and who liked to stir things up.
Twelve days before her arrest at the border, Morgan had expressed an unwillingness to adhere to laws requiring people to give up their weapons when, in her opinion, God and the Constitution afforded people an inherent right to protect themselves.
In her writings over the last year she has rejected the authority of the courts, referred to President Barack Obama as "the illegal in the white house," and claims to have once told an Alaska State Trooper that it is "our duty to overthrow an unconstitutional tyrannical government." The incident with the trooper took place at a courthouse entrance after Morgan and others had asked but were denied what she called "constitutional entry." To Morgan, that means getting inside without having to go through a security screening.
This summer, she began to speak of how she was grooming herself for future anti-government action. "In many ways, I have been preparing to help remove the corrupt despicable unconstitutional court system. I am just now learning how to use arms," she wrote in a post June 22.
Morgan would surely have known the danger in attempting to bring a handgun into Canada, where they are strictly prohibited, let alone attempting to do so with a past felony conviction, according to Olson.
So why would a savvy political activist do something so risky?
"She is smarter than that. She knows the risks and the dangers of keeping out of the federal government, especially the border," Olson said in an interview Tuesday. "The whole thing doesn’t make any sense."
Morgan has been a strong and vocal advocate of Schaeffer Cox, the Fairbanks militia leader arrested with several associates in March on weapons charges and allegations the group conspired to kidnap and murder a judge. She even participated in the common law trial convened by Cox supporters at a Denny's restaurant in Fairbanks in which Cox was "acquitted" of a misdemeanor state weapons charge pending against him at the time.
"It was the most beautiful event I have ever witnessed in my life," Morgan later wrote about the proceeding.
Have the weapons charges against Morgan garnered federal attention because of her connections to Cox and her own political views? Olson thinks so. "Her voice, like Schaeffer's, needed to be silenced," he said.
Steven Skrocki, the Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecuting Morgan, declined to discuss why the federal government decided to pursue a case against her. "It's an ongoing investigation and we have no comment at this time," he said.
On Tuesday a federal judge ordered Morgan to remain in custody until at least the end of the week, when the outcome of a bail hearing will determine whether she should be released.
Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com