U.S. Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Alaska
District of Alaska
For Immediate Release
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Karen L. Loeffler, United States Attorney
Couple Charged for Conspiracy to Murder Juge and Federal Firearms Crimes
Two Others Indicted for Conspiracy to Possess Destructive Devices And Illegal Weapons
Anchorage, Alaska – United States Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced today, March 17, 2011, that Lonnie G. Vernon, Karen L. Vernon, Coleman L. Barney and Francis Schaeffer Cox were indicted by a federal grand jury in Anchorage on federal conspiracy and firearms charges.
In the first of two indictments, Lonnie Vernon and his wife Karen Vernon are charged with conspiracy to murder a Federal District Judge and an Internal Revenue Service employee, threatening to murder the judge and the judge’s family, and conspiracy to possess an unregistered firearm silencer and grenades. Lonnie Vernon is also charged in the same indictment with illegally possessing a machine gun and possessing a firearm equipped with a silencer in furtherance of a federal crime of violence. This indictment supersedes an earlier federal indictment charging Lonnie Vernon with threatening to murder a Federal District Court Judge and his family.
The second indictment issued today charges Francis Schaeffer Cox, Coleman L. Barney and Lonnie G. Vernon with conspiracy to possess unregistered destructive devices. It also charges both Cox and Barney with possession of unregistered destructive devices, and Cox with four additional federal firearm charges for the illegal manufacture and possession of a silencer and the illegal possession of a Sten machine gun.
Lonnie and Karen Vernon, ages 55 and 64 respectively, are residents of Salcha, Alaska. Cox, age 27, is a resident of Fairbanks, Alaska. Barney, age 36, is a resident of North Pole, Alaska. According to the indictments, Lonnie Vernon and his wife Karen Vernon conspired to murder the District Court Judge who was presiding over a civil tax case filed against them in federal court seeking past unpaid taxes, and also conspired to kill an IRS employee. In furtherance of that conspiracy, it is alleged that Lonnie Vernon possessed a pistol with a silencer. The indictment charging Cox, Coleman and Lonnie Vernon alleges that those three men engaged in a conspiracy to obtain destructive devices, including grenades, and unregistered silencers, and that Cox possessed an unlawful Sten machine gun, and an unlawful firearm silencer, as that Cox and Barney possessed destructive devices.
Assistant United States Attorney Steven Skrocki, who presented the case to the grand jury, indicated that the charge of conspiracy to murder a federal employee, as alleged in the first indictment described above, carries a maximum term of life imprisonment. The charge of possessing a firearm equipped with a silencer in furtherance of a federal crime of violence carries a mandatory consecutive sentence of thirty years in prison. All the other charges each carry a maximum penalty of between five and ten years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or both. Under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, the actual sentence imposed will be based upon the seriousness of the offenses and the prior criminal history, if any, of the defendant.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Marshal’s Service, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Alaska State Troopers, and the Fairbanks Police Department coordinated to conduct the investigation leading to the indictments in this case.
An indictment is only a charge and is not evidence of guilt. A defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.