Appeals court turns down request by convicted Alaska militia leader for new attorney

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska — An appeals court has turned down a request by a convicted Alaska militia leader to fire his latest attorney for his appeal of a federal sentence for conspiring to kill public officials, among other charges.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the request by Schaeffer Cox, whose current attorney replaced an earlier one, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner ( reported. In response to the court's decision last Wednesday, Cox on Monday asked to represent himself.

The appeals court also has declined to hear complaints from Cox about the Illinois prison where he is serving his term.

Cox, 30, was convicted in 2012 of nine federal charges, including conspiracy to kill federal law enforcement officers. Cox, who headed the group Alaska Peacemakers Militia, was sentenced in January 2013 to serve nearly 26 years in prison and gave his notice of appeal shortly thereafter.

In a court filing last month, Cox requested a replacement for his attorney, saying he was at an impasse with his current lawyer about issues they differed on.

In another filing, Cox complained about his incarceration at the U.S. Penitentiary Marion, one of two federal prisons with "communication management units." Those are areas created in 2006 to restrict communications of inmates believed to have the potential to incite terrorism through coded messages.

In his filing, Cox said the prison used to let him contact multiple attorneys, but beginning in December the policies became stricter. Cox said that's when prison staff made him use censored mail to contact lawyers other than his attorney.

"There is no law, policy, regulation, or even contorted logic to support this arbitrary move by the (communication management units)," Cox said in the filing.

The complaint about the prison was entered into the court record.

The appellate court, however, did not directly address the issue. The court clerk said in a short note Wednesday that Cox is supposed to contact the court through his attorney.

Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner,

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