A group of citizen militia members have been arrested and charged with conspiring to murder a federal judge and an IRS employee, along with weapons and explosives charges.

In the first of two indictments last Thursday, Lonnie Vernon and his wife Karen Vernon, ages 55 and 64 respectively, of Salcha, Alaska, were 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 was 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. The indictment supersedes an earlier federal indictment on March 11 charging Lonnie Vernon with threatening to murder a federal district court judge and his family.

Vernon allegedly threatened to murder the judge and his family in an attempt to impede, intimidate and interfere with the judge in retaliation for the judge issuing rulings in a civil tax case involving Vernon that was pending before the judge. He was arrested on Thursday, March 10, in Fairbanks, Alaska.

The second indictment, also issued last Thursday, 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. 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 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. 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, while 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 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.

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