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Militia defendant's attorney wants Feds gagged, too

Jill Burke

Tim Dooley, the defense attorney whose comments to the press Monday inspired a federal prosecutor to seek a partial gag-order in the case, has stated he'll remain tight-lipped, for now.

"Defense counsel for Coleman Barney intends to refrain from commenting to the press any further, for the simple reason that the defense does not need to disclose what we know about the case," Dooley wrote in a motion filed in federal court Wednesday.

Dooley had earlier commented that he thinks aspects of the government's case are off base: it was the informant who came up with the deadly plan, not the defendants, and at least 10-15 hours worth of surveillance tapes don't contain any hint of Barney wanting or planning to kill anyone, Dooley had said.

The government said comments Dooley made involved information it hadn't yet released. Try the case in the courts, not the media, was the message from prosecutors who seemed most concerned about the possibility of tainting a future jury pool.

Yet despite his promise to keep details under wraps, Dooley managed to slip in a few new items in Wednesday's court filing. The "weapons cache" supposedly discovered by the government was nothing more than privately owned guns, bubble-wrapped for transport and "packed along with household appliances such as a Kitchenaid mixer and destined for shipment to the state."

Alaska Peacemaker Militia leader Schaeffer Cox had a plan to flee the state, according to investigators. Presumably, this "weapons cache" described by Dooley stemmed from preparations for Cox's intended exit from Alaska.

Dooley also debunks the implication the government created by publicizing a picture of seized hand grenades. The items were "photographically paraded as though they could actually cause harm," he wrote. But, "the same type of empty grenade shells are found in Alaska offices with small signs that read 'In a hurry? Take a number!' The sign is usually attached to the pull ring."

He also claims a picture the government stated was of a grenade launcher is actually of a legal flare launcher, and that a mapped out strategy to defend Cox from enemies was improperly characterized as an "offensive" plan.

Additionally, it's the government, not the defense, which first publicized the so-called murder plots, Dooley pointed out.

Gag orders are to be used sparingly, ordered only when there is "clear and present danger" to the ability to find an impartial jury, he argued. If the judge believes this to be the case, Dooley asked that the order also -- based on the points above -- “encompass the rhetoric of the U.S."

The matter will likely be taken up Thursday morning during a bail hearing for Dooley's client, Coleman Barney. 

Contact Jill Burke at jill(at)alaskadispatch.com