Fairbanks Men Convicted of Conspiracy to Possess Illegal Firearms, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Possessing Illegal Firearms, and Solicitation to Commit Murder
ANCHORAGE—U.S. Attorney Karen L. Loeffler announced that Francis Schaeffer Cox, Coleman L. Barney, and Lonnie G. Vernon were found guilty after a six-week trial of conspiracy to possess silencers, hand grenades, and other illegal weapons. The jury also returned guilty verdicts against Schaeffer Cox and Lonnie Vernon for conspiracy to murder federal officials, a crime which carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment. In addition, Schaeffer Cox was found guilty of solicitation to commit murder, possession of an unregistered machine gun, making a silencer, possession of an unregistered silencer, and two counts of possession of destructive devices in the form of components for the making of hand grenades, and a 37mm grenade launcher loaded with a crowd control-type grenade known as a “Hornet’s Nest.”
The jury found Coleman Barney guilty of possession of unregistered destructive devices, in this case for carrying a 37mm grenade launcher loaded with a Hornet’s Nest munition during a security detail for Cox in November 2010. The jury was unable to reach a verdict as to Coleman Barney on conspiracy to commit murder of federal officials and acquitted all defendants of charges involving the carrying of firearms in connection with crimes of violence.
The possible sentence for the charge of conspiracy to murder federal officials, of which Cox and Vernon were found guilty, is up to life in prison. Cox’s weapons/silencer convictions carry penalties up to 10 years in prison, while solicitation to commit murder carries a term of imprisonment of up to 20 years. Defendant Barney’s sentencing exposure is up to 10 years for the weapons conviction and up to five years for conspiracy.
All three defendants will remain in custody pending sentencing. U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Bryan scheduled sentencing for September 14, 2012, in Anchorage. Lonnie Vernon, 57, is a resident of Salcha, Alaska. Barney, age 36, is a resident of North Pole, Alaska. Cox, age 28, is a resident of Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation; the United States Marshals 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 guilty verdicts in this case.