Criminal Justice

Sovereign Citizen Couple Plead Guilty in Plot to Kill Federal Judge

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A couple who were active in the sovereign citizens movement have pleaded guilty to conspiring to kill a federal judge who presided in a tax case that cost them their home.

Lonnie and Karen Vernon pleaded guilty on Monday to conspiring to kill U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline and an official with the Internal Revenue Service, report Reuters and the Anchorage Daily News. The plea agreement also said the couple plotted to kill Beistline’s daughter and grandchildren, according to the Reuters account.

Beistline had presided over a case in which the Vernons asserted they have no obligation to pay taxes.

The Reuters story reports that the hearing was marked by “a number of defiant outbursts” by Lonnie Vernon. “If I’m accused of doing anything,” Lonnie Vernon said, “I’m accused of freely exercising my First Amendment rights to the max.” He repeatedly asked who has jurisdiction over him, according to the Anchorage Daily News.

The Vernons were charged after buying weapons from a government informant and telling him of their plans. Lonnie Vernon is a follower of Alaska militia leader Schaeffer Cox. Both men were convicted in June of plotting to murder government officials, the story says.

Prior coverage: US Alleges Plot to Kidnap, Murder, Burn Homes re Top Alaska Federal Judge, His Wife, Multiple Others

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