FAIRBANKS, Alaska — A federal appeals court has reversed a former Fairbanks militia leader’s murder solicitation conviction, but affirmed other convictions, including a murder conspiracy charge.

A panel of three U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals judges filed a memorandum Tuesday that grants Francis Schaeffer Cox a new sentencing hearing, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported (http://bit.ly/2wpjfZO ).

Cox, an advocate for gun rights and the anti-government sovereign citizen ideology, was convicted of nine felonies by an Anchorage jury in 2012. The charges included conspiracy to murder federal officials, solicitation to murder federal officials and charges of owning and conspiring to own illegal weapons.

Cox was sentenced to 26 years in prison and it’s not clear how the reversed conviction will affect the sentence. Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Skrocki said the judges’ decision was not likely to significantly alter Cox’s time in prison as he was set to serve his sentences on the other convictions consecutively, KTVA reported.

“We’ll have to see what the court does, but we expect the sentence to remain unchanged,” said Skrocki, who said that because the conspiracy to murder charge was upheld, his office would not appeal the reversal of the solicitation count.

During oral arguments earlier this month in Anchorage, Cox’s defense attorney Michael Filipovic argued that Cox didn’t really threaten the life of federal employees in 2010. Cox went to North Pole TV station KJNP to give an interview and he asked supporters to set up a security perimeter as protection from a “federal hit team” that Cox said was attempting to kill him.

As the “hit team” did not exist, Cox’s security team didn’t “constitute a sufficient threat to the safety of a federal officer,” the judges said. Because Cox instructed his guards to only use deadly force if they observed the federal agents draw their guns, the court concluded there wasn’t enough evidence that “strongly confirmed that (Cox) actually intended for anyone to commit first-degree murder.”

The court rejected Filipovic’s argument that prosecutors didn’t present enough evidence to convict Cox on the conspiracy charge.

“Defendant (Cox) and his co-conspirators agreed to attack government officials — including federal officers — in the event of certain conditions that they subjectively thought were likely to occur,” the judges stated. “A rational trier of fact could conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that the agreement was not merely one of self-defense.”


Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com