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Guide to Alaska sovereign citizens trial: Patriots, militias and going to extremes

Jill Burke

Fairbanks militia leader Schaeffer Cox is currently on trial in federal court on weapons and murder conspiracy charges in a case that has overtones of the radical sovereign citizen movement that the FBI has recently identified has a top domestic terrorist threat. Standing trail with him are two of members of his Alaska Peacemakers Militia, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon.

RELATED: Sovereign citizens militia members on trial

Prosecutors allege the trio formulated a plan to kidnap and kill government officials, including members of law enforcement and judges -- and that they acquired illegal guns and explosives in service of that agenda. The defense has claimed investigators have seriously overreached, and that the only thing Cox is guilty of is a big mouth and that the others are guilty solely of befriending and standing by him.

Prosecutors built their case through a state-federal investigation that relied on two undercover witnesses, each with baggage of their own. One was a well-known con man who'd agreed to infiltrate Cox's group to get a break in a different criminal mess he'd gotten himself into. The other turned out to have ties to U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller and at one point ended up handcuffing Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at a public event in the weeks leading up to the 2010 election.

Who are these guys and who the heck is to be believed as the trial unfolds?

To help you unravel the events and people leading to the high-profile case, here's a list of stories past and present about Cox, the moles, and the sovereign citizen movement. Also check out or militia section.

  1. 1 Searching for the real Schaeffer Cox

    Schaeffer Cox started out life in Fairbanks as a student of the Bible only to become -- if authorities are to be believed -- a potentially dangerous and violent revolutionary looking to kill law enforcement and overthrow the country.

  2. 2 Alaska militia 'supply sergeant' vanishes as alleged murder plot unfolds

    Drop Zone owner William Fulton hasn't been seen since a few days after Fairbanks militia members were busted on conspiracy charges.

  3. 3 Is 'Drop Zone Bill' friend or snitch in Alaska militia movement?

    Those who know William Fulton, a former bounty hunter who ran a military supply store, wonder whether he was trying to set them and others up as part of a federal crackdown on an Alaska militia.

  4. 4 How Gerald Olson infiltrated the Alaska Peacemakers Militia

    PART II: Felon Gerald Olson cut a deal with authorities to help them dig up dirt on an alleged militia murder plot. But can "Mr. Sewage" be trusted? 

  5. 5 Alaska militia infiltrator exposed

    Con man turned mole: How convicted swindler Gerald "J.R." Olson landed a dangerous assignment to save his own skin.

  6. 6 Militia co-defendant: We were set up

    Coleman Barney wants you to believe he's just like anyone else in Fairbanks, Alaska. He adheres to the U.S. Constitution and loves his guns. Here's what else he told a federal judge Thursday.

  7. 7 Why was an FBI informant working for Alaska political campaigns?

    In the 10 months Bill Fulton worked as a paid FBI informant in a sweeping investigation of an Alaska militia, he also lent a hand to political candidates in the 2010 elections.

  8. 8 Indicted sovereign citizens in Lower 48 linked to Schaeffer Cox

    Four people who helped acquit Fairbanks-based militia leader Schaeffer Cox of state charges in a common law court proceeding now have their own criminal problems to deal with.

  9. 9 In election year, a federal focus on sovereign citizen movement

    In an era when Barack Obama, a president viewed as radically liberal by the extreme right, prepares to seek a second term, an anti-government movement poses an increasing threat to law enforcement and government workers.

  10. 10 Paranoia vs. patriotism in openings of Fairbanks militia trial

    As the trial begins, Federal prosecutors attempt to paint Schaeffer Cox, Coleman Barney and Lonnie Anderson as paranoid and dangerous to public safety. Defense attorneys say they're on the right side of the law.