An Alaska judge barred prosecutors from using over 100 hours of electronic surveillance in the trial of Schaeffer Cox of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia, who allegedly stockpiled weapons as part of a plot to kill state officials.
Superior Court Judge David Stewart ruled Monday that the audio and video recordings were inadmissible because they were made without a search warrant, in violation of the state’s constitution. The recordings were made by the FBI during a six-month investigation into Cox and his militia, with the help of two confidential informants.
According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, prosecutors had argued that the recordings should be allowed “because informants who made the recordings were working for the FBI, which is less strictly bound by federal law to obtain warrants in this sort of case.”
“You really have to see the grand jury testimony to see how much of their case relies on this (the recordings),” Cox’s defense attorney Robert John said. “This whole investigation was driven by the recording. Does everything just have to go now because everything is tainted? That’s something that that will have to be hashed out in court.”
Cox and the militia members are charged with conspiracy to commit murder in state court, but the recordings have so far only been thrown out for Cox. Four of the five militia members initially arrested are also facing federal charges related to the plot.
Last month, a federal judge ordered that the government begin foreclosure proceedings on the home of Lonnie and Karen Vernon, two other militia members arrested in connection with the plot. The sale of the Vernons’ home will go toward paying off the almost $180,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest that the couple owes to the Fairbanks North Star Borough and IRS.
The Vernons’ fight with the IRS, which began in 1999, is what led to their role in the plot to kill an IRS agent and the District Court judge who was handling their case, according to authorities. The Vernons have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Full coverage here.