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Militiaman gets 5 years in prison for weapons conviction

By Richard Mauer, Anchorage Daily News –

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Fairbanks militia member Coleman Barney was sentenced Monday to five years in prison on two weapons violations, substantially less time than federal sentencing guidelines suggested but much more than sought in the pleas of Barney and his family.

U.S. District Judge Robert Bryan said Barney might have been a good family man, churchgoer and businessman before he linked up with militia leader Schaeffer Cox in 2010, but his choices afterward pointed him in the direction of prison.

“It’s been a long road, Mr. Barney — a long road for you and long road for your family,” Bryan said. “You got into really bad stuff here.”

Barney pleaded with Bryan for leniency, admitting he made mistakes but promising he never would again.

“I just beg you to help me get back to my home and my family,” he told Bryan. In the spectator’s section, his wife and mother were crying.

In jail since his arrest in Fairbanks on March 10, 2011, with Cox and two others while trying to buy grenades and silenced pistols from a government informant, Barney asked that his sentence be only for the time he had already served.

Outside the Anchorage courtroom after Barney was led away in handcuffs, his wife, Rachel, said she thought he was unfairly prosecuted.

“I will stand by my husband,” she said. “Someday, all the facts will come out. I believe in my husband’s innocence.”

Barney, 38, was a major in Cox’s Alaska Peacemaker Militia. In a federal trial that ended in June, the jury deadlocked on the most serious charge Barney faced, conspiracy to murder federal law enforcement officials. Cox and co-defendant Lonnie Vernon were both found guilty on that charge and are scheduled for sentencing next month.

Barney was guilty of possessing an unlawful “destructive device” — a grenade launcher with a generally non-lethal anti-personal explosive round that scatters hard-rubber pellets. He was also found guilty of conspiracy to possess unregistered silencers and destructive devices.

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