Alaska couple plead guilty to conspiring to kill federal judge

Lonnie and Karen Vernon, followers of jailed Alaska militia leader Schaeffer Cox, reached a deal with prosecutors to avoid the need for a trial that had been set to begin next month.

The Vernons and Cox were active in the “sovereign citizen” movement, whose adherents believe individuals are sovereign nations and federal, state and local laws do not apply to them.

The Vernons each entered a guilty plea to a single count of conspiracy to commit murder for their plan to kill Alaska-based U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline, who presided over a federal income tax case that ultimately cost the couple their home.

The Vernons also admitted in their plea agreement to planning to kill an Internal Revenue Service official and Beistline’s daughter and grandchildren.

The Vernons bought a silencer-equipped pistol and grenades in March 2011 and told the seller of the weapons about their intentions, according to the plea agreement. But the seller turned out to be a confidential government informant, and the Vernons were arrested immediately after the transaction took place.

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