Remember when Republican senate candidate Joe Miller hired a security team for that ill-fated campaign event at a public school last fall? Well, as it turns out, the head of the security team was moonlighting as a confidential informant infiltrating the Alaska militia movement for the FBI, in an effort that eventually helped lead to the arrest of Schaeffer Cox and his followers on weapons charges and an alleged plot to kill state officials.
TPM has been reporting on members of the Alaska Peacemakers Militia — including leader Cox, married couple Lonnie and Karen Vernon, and Coleman Barney — who were arrested in March and charged with conspiring to kill Alaska State Troopers and other state officials. Though the state recently dropped the conspiracy charges, each still faces a number of federal weapons charges.
In an arraignment Monday, Cox, Lonnie Vernon and Barney pleaded not guilty to the weapons charges, which include possession of a grenade launcher. Cox said he was pleading not guilty as a “general assertion of actual innocence on all counts.”
Local media outlets in Alaska have for some time concluded that Bill Fulton, the head of the army surplus store and bail bonds agency Dropzone Security, was one of the two confidential informants for the FBI. And as TPM reported earlier this month, Cox himself named Fulton as the informant in his motion to dismiss the charges, claiming that Fulton was the one advocating for violent action against the government (more on that later). But in filings last week, the U.S. Attorney’s office named Fulton as one of the informants for the first time.
TPM readers may remember how in October of 2010, Alaska senatorial candidate Joe Miller hired Bill Fulton and two of his Dropzone Security employees to provide security for a town hall event in an Anchorage public school. Dropzone was an army surplus store that doubled as a fugitive apprehension agency, among other things.
At the event, Fulton and the others handcuffed and detained Alaska Dispatch journalist Tony Hopfinger for alleged trespassing and assault, after an altercation between Hopfinger and the security team. Hopfinger contended he was just trying to question and video Miller.
No charges were filed over the incident, but afterward it was reported that Fulton seemed to have ties to the Alaska Citizens Militia and was even known as the “supply Sergeant” on the group’s Google Forum.
Fulton would frequently post on the site under the username “bob bob,” but would sign his posts as “DropZone Bill.” In one post from January 2010, Fulton wrote: “I should hope that the militia is not involved with establishing any form of government moral or otherwise. It is the purpose of the militia to defend the people and the state. I believe our job is to be shooters, elected politicians get to deal with the government establishment portion of the pie.” In an October post he organized a meeting of militia members at his store.
After the Miller incident, Fulton denied that he was a member of the militia. He confirmed to TPM that he was a regular poster on the forum, though said it was for business purposes, and that his store has “a very small customer base,” so sometimes he has to drum up business. Occasionally, he said, he would post on the site to “stir ‘em up when we’re having a slow month.”
But now it’s clear that it was more than just business. In the days following the March arrests of Cox and his cohorts, Fulton gave his attorney Wayne Anthony Ross power of attorney over his assets, including his store, and then seemingly disappeared. Ross then signed the store over to David Giles, which Giles rebranded as 907 Surplus.
“I don’t know and can’t say the extent of his involvement, if any, at this time, but he’s not a defendant,” Ross said in April. Giles told TPM then that he had not heard from Fulton, and had no idea where he was. Calls to Fulton’s home at the time went to a busy signal.
On March 14, three days after the arrests, posters on the Alaska Citizens Militia message board speculated about what happened to Fulton.
“Bill you ok?” David Luntz asked. “Chime in.”
“Last I heard, DZ was having problems with bad press,” poster Linton Daniels offered. “If I was in Anchorage, I would go by an check on him.”
Kath McCubbins-Carlson wondered: “Was he a plant all this time?”
At the time, Norm Olson, the founder of the ACM, was not sure what to think. “I really don’t know. I can only speculate,” he told TPM when asked about Fulton’s disappearance. “He’s gone, his business has been turned over to someone else, his house is empty…To quote the Warden in Shawshank Redemption: ‘…he up and vanished like a fart in the wind.’”
“There was an unnamed “confidential source” who testified at the Federal Grand Jury,” Olson added. “We’ll probably never know for sure just who it was, but Fulton’s disappearance does raise questions.”
Federal documents released earlier this year revealed that the FBI made the Cox arrests with the help of two informants on the federal payroll. In July, Gerald Olson was revealed to be CS-1 when his sentence for second-degree theft charges was reduced as a reward for his help in bringing about the arrests.
Fulton was named by Cox in a filing earlier this month that asked for a dismissal of the charges on First Amendment grounds. Cox claimed that Fulton “kept pushing and pushing the question ‘what my plan was’ and that his men were being mobilized to attack the government.”
“Fulton was extremely angry with me when I told him I had no plan to attack the government,” Cox said. “Fulton said that he had spent a lot of money to get his men ready for the war in Fairbanks.”
In a motion to join the motion for dismissal, Coleman Barney’s attorney Tim Dooley writes: “It would be useful if the government could point to any speech of Cox or Barney that was not protected first amendment speech. But the government cannot do that.”