For the more than 15 months that Coleman Barney has been jailed onsuspicions he planned to kill federal officials in defense of hismilitia commander, Schaeffer Cox, he's missed the birth of hisfifth child and his 16th wedding anniversary. His tight-knit familyhopes the weeks-long trial will finally bring an end to an ordealthey're bewildered got this far. "He doesn't even know his baby. He wants to come home," said RachelBarney, who has been an ever-present fixture in numerous courtroomhearings over the months leading up to trial. |
"I still believe inmy husband, and nothing will ever change." Barney was considered an officer in the Schaeffer Cox-commandedAlaska Peacemakers Militia. He, along with Cox and Lonnie Vernon,are on trial by the U.S. government for conspiracy to murder and aslew of illegal weapons possession charges. Cox wrapped up histestimony late Wednesday, after days on the stand. Barney began totell his side of the story Thursday morning.
A hardworking family man raised and still active in the Mormonfaith, Barney first met Cox at a meeting of the Second AmendmentTask Force, a pro-gun-rights group Cox had established, hetestified Thursday. They both liked guns and shared similarconcerns about America's wobbly financial health. Barney's churchbelieved that "end times" were near. A responsible provider, the electrical contractor had taken stepsto assure his family's survival if society did indeed collapse. Hestored food and household supplies.
He kept a few weapons on handto keep the peace and protect his family should government breakdown, giving rise to lawlessness. He believed in the Constitutionand liberty. The fire-brand rhetoric Cox was peddling had caughthis ear. Returning the nation to purer principles and better valueswas a movement Barney could get behind. But as Cox's paranoia about being an assassination target deepened,escalating his ire at government and his desire forself-preservation, Barney felt increasingly uncomfortable.
He saidstatements about firepower, killing and bloodshed that Cox had madeto judges and troopers were too bold, too jarring -- risking thecredibility of the militia and other like-minded, liberty-pursuingpatriots, he said. Barney told jurors he cautioned Cox to tone things down, becausethe shocking speech "shines a bad light on all of us." It wasn'tthe behavior he'd expected from the "group of Christian men" he'dsigned on with to "defend our family and homes in the event ofeconomic collapse." Tim Dooley, Barney's attorney, questioned him Thursday morning.Cross examination by federal prosecutors will begin later. This is a developing story. Return for updates. Contact Jill Burkeat jill(at)alaskadispatch.com.
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