Feds Arrest 5 in Alleged Conspiracy to Kill Alaska's Chief US District Court Judge and Family Member

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Authorities have arrested an Alaska couple and claimed members of a group called the Sovereign Citizens Movement over an alleged plot to kill a federal judge and his family.

Lonnie Vernon of Salcha is the only suspect facing federal charges. He is accused of threatening to kill Chief U.S. District Court Judge Ralph Beistline in retaliation for his official duties, as well as a member of Beistline’s family, according to the Anchorage Daily News and the Fairbanks News-Miner.

Vernon and his wife have been involved since 2009 in a federal tax case that may result in the sale of their home to repay some $165,000 allegedly owed to the government. He is accused of making threats in retaliation for the judge’s rulings in the couple’s tax evasion case.

Vernon pleaded not guilty this morning in federal court in Fairbanks. His age is variously given as 55 or 56.

The other four suspects being pursued in state court are Karen Vernon, Michael Anderson, Coleman Barney and Francis “Schaeffer” Cox, reports KTUU. They were charged, along with Lonnie Vernon, with conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and conspiracy to commit arson, among other alleged crimes.

Authorities say the conspiracy also involved a plan to kidnap or kill state troopers, two of whom were reportedly under surveillance at their homes, according to the station.

The articles don’t reveal how the alleged plot was discovered.

Updated at 4:52 p.m .to include additional information from News-Miner and KTUU.

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