An Alaska couple connected to the “sovereign nation” movement pleaded guilty on Monday to charges of conspiring to kill a federal judge, Reuters reports.
Lonnie and Karen Vernon made the deal in order to avoid a trial that would have started last month. They each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder after their plan to kill U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline was uncovered. Beistline, a George W. Bush appointee to the bench, had ruled against them in a federal income tax case, leaving the Vernons without their home. The couple also admitted to planning to kill Beistline’s daughter and grandchildren, as well as an Internal Revenue Service official.
“If I’m accused of doing anything, I’m accused of freely exercising my First Amendment rights to the max,” Lonnie Vernon said at one point Monday, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Lonnie Version is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 14 for a separate case involving himself and Schaeffer Cox, the leader of the “Alaska Peacekeepers Militia.” Both men were convicted in June of conspiring to murder federal and state government officials and of purchasing illegal weapons to use against their targets.
The FBI has classified the sovereign movement as a terrorist organization. Earlier this month, at least two other members of the movement in Louisiana were part of a group of seven people arrested in connection with the fatal shooting of two sheriffs deputies.
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