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Alaskan militia leader's wife says he is guided by the laws of God

After the jury departed for the deliberation room Thursday and the alternate jurors were dismissed, after the ratcheting of handcuffs signaled all three defendants were on the way back to jail, and after most of the courtroom spectators had returned to their routines, Marti Cox lingered with a small pack of reporters to try to explain why her husband Schaeffer wasn't the wacko militia caricature that emerged over five weeks of trial.

It would take a journey, not a story, to properly understand Schaeffer Cox, she said: That's how complex he and his ideas are.

Still, she tried.

He wasn't the man who was alternately condemned by federal prosecutors as violent extremist or a narcissist who would rather put his followers at risk than face the consequences of his own actions, she said.

Marti, 30, said she was hopeful the jury would acquit Schaeffer, 28, and his two co-defendants. But after sitting through a significant portion of the trial and all of the last two days of closing arguments, she can understand why the verdicts might be guilty, she said.

That would leave Schaeffer facing life in prison on the most serious of the charges -- conspiracy to murder federal officials. Her husband could survive that outcome, she said. So could she. But it would be devastating for their two children to grow up without a father.

"Activities in court are impacting my children right now," she said.

Prosecutors were trying to "pigeonhole" her husband in a way to fit their case theory, not to present a true picture of him, she said.

They also misrepresented the domestic violence complaint she filed against her husband, she said -- an event that loomed large in the federal case.

"I do not appreciate the prosecutor taking a stance of somehow being a savior for me and my family," she said.

The charge, to which Schaeffer pleaded guilty, led child-welfare officials to seek to examine their son in private. Schaeffer Cox said he feared such an examination was tantamount to taking his child away, itself an act of war. The welfare worker ended up on his hit list, and he told a fellow militia member -- an FBI undercover informant -- that the forcible removal of his child would be a reason to invoke his "241 plan," the killing of two officials for every one of his family or allies.

A reporter suggested that perhaps Schaeffer should bear some responsibility for the suffering of his children if the case turned out that way.

Marti Cox rejected the question because it presumed Schaeffer Cox had done something wrong to deserve being punished. At the same time, she said, she knows Schaeffer isn't perfect.

"I do not want people to think I am the wife trying to protect her husband," she said. "He is my best friend. Best friends know about one another's faults."

But she also objected to the dismissive way that assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Skrocki had referred to Cox's fundamental belief system.

That happened during closing arguments Wednesday when Skrocki said that Cox's concept of liberty was something outside the scope of Alaska or U.S. law and was essentially unknowable.

"It's under his own version of God's law, whatever that may be," Skrocki said

Cox does indeed believe that divine law has been handed down to people and that it takes precedence over everything else, but he also believes that man's law was created to allow people to live together in peace and harmony, she said. While God's laws are perfect, man's laws can go awry when they are used by people to put themselves above others. Those are the kinds of federal and state laws that her husband opposed, she said.

Religion has played a huge role in their lives, she said. Sometimes, she believes, God's voice is expressed by her husband, though she said it would be inappropriate to call him a prophet.

Cox's father is a Baptist preacher in Fairbanks and named his son after an evangelical pastor who influenced his life: Francis August Schaeffer.

Pastor Schaeffer, who died in 1984, has been credited with providing the philosophical basis for the modern blending of conservative politics and religion.

Marti said she and Schaeffer have been so interested in the subject of God's laws that they studied Torah with a Jewish group in Fairbanks, something Schaeffer's father thought was odd. Along with the vast arsenal, computers and cellphones seized from Schaeffer by federal authorities was a printed copy of the Torah -- the first five books of the Old Testament -- that Cox kept in his truck.

"I still have his Tanakh," Marti said, using the Hebrew word for the Jewish Holy Scriptures, the full Old Testament.

If they've studied with the Jewish community, read Torah and understand some Hebrew words, why was there testimony in the trial that Cox used the pejorative term "Jew him down" at least twice in talking about getting a better deal on something?

That's the way Schaeffer is, Marti replied. He can use a phrase like that without implying hate or prejudice, she said.