LAWS THAT PROTECTED SCHNEIDER ARE STILL THE NORM ACROSS THE COUNTRY
A reporter for BuzzFeed.com traveled to Alaska in May. He posted about his visit on Instagram, shown above, hiking in the Chugach Mountains and thinking about his late father.
But it was not a vacation. It was an assignment.
David Mack, an Australian writer living in gritty New York City, left his desk as the “breaking news editor” at the web-based, often sensationalistic news agency, and headed to the seamy streets of Anchorage to follow a story about how one man’s crimes led to a change in the sexual assault laws in Alaska.
Justin Schneider was in Spenard in August of 2017, when he picked a woman up at a gas station, took her to a dead end street at 36th Avenue and Wisconsin, choked her to the point of unconsciousness, masturbated on her, left her there covered in semen … and never was convicted of a sex crime.
Schneider, who at the time was an air traffic controller at Ted Stevens International Airport, served only a nominal amount of time in jail, and most of his sentence on an ankle monitor
Until now, the woman has always been known as Jane Doe.
In Mack’s story, we learn that the first name of the young woman is Lauren. We also, for the first time, hear the voice of the Lauren, talking about her life growing up in rural Alaska. We hear her description of how she met the guy at the gas station who introduced himself as “Dan.” How he said he thought they had met before. How he offered to give her a ride home, and how she accepted that ride. We learn about why prosecutors never contacted her before sealing the plea deal with the man who was Justin Schneider.
BuzzFeed is a left-leaning web publication with a penchant for being click-bait heaven (“21 Scary Chernobyl Facts That I Don’t Recommend You Read Late At Night”).
But Mack got something no reporter in Alaska has gotten — an interview with Lauren telling how the crime against her went down that August day.
He also talked to former Judge Michael Corey, and lays out the details that led up to the plea deal that let Schneider serve his sentence on an ankle monitor. The reader is left with little doubt that just about everything conspired to let Schneider off easy — missing phone number of the victim, and criminal justice laws written by lawmakers who had never conceived of such a crime.
The point of the story comes early:
“But the reality was much more complicated. The prosecutors didn’t drop the sexual assault charge. They never brought one in the first place — because, they said, the law would not allow them to.
“In Alaska, sexual assault has a very narrow definition: It has to involve either “knowingly touching, directly or through clothing, the victim’s genitals, anus, or female breast,” or knowingly causing the victim to touch either the defendant’s, or the victim’s own, genitals. So because Schneider touched only his own genitals but didn’t touch Lauren’s or force her to touch his, his actions didn’t qualify as sexual assault.”