NEW BILLS INCLUDE ‘SCHNEIDER LOOPHOLE’ LEGISLATION
Dozens of bills were filed in advance of the Jan. 15 start of the legislative session, but none are more likely to get more bipartisan support than Senate Bill 12.
Sen. Peter Micciche of Soldotna filed SB 12 to close what he’s calling the “Schneider Loopholes” in Alaska’s criminal code. Rep. John Lincoln of Kotzebue has filed a similar bill on the House side.
The bills resulted from the case of Justin Schneider, who walked free after strangling a woman to the point of unconsciousness and then ejaculating on her. The judge in that case was not retained by voters, but the case itself exposed serious shortcomings in the laws dealing with sexual assault in Alaska.
“Last year, Alaskans were horrified to learn that a guilty violent sexual perpetrator, Justin Schneider, walked without adequate consequences,” Micciche said. “Serious crimes were ignored and an inappropriate plea deal allowed the perpetrator to serve a portion of the sentence of the single conviction at home with his family. In a state number one in the U.S. for sexual assault, we are making the statement that there will be ‘no more free passes’ for perpetrators of such crimes.
SB 12 has three main changes to law. The bill will:
- Classify unwanted contact with semen as a sexual crime, which means perpetrators can be required to register as sex offenders for this crime;
- Require that strangulation to the point of unconsciousness is defined as assault in the first degree, which carries a sentence of 5 to 20 years; and
- Eliminate credit toward time served for electronic monitoring for sexual assault convictions.
“In recent years, one outrageous story after another about criminals getting a slap on the wrist has dominated our headlines,” said Sen. Micciche. “The case of Justin Schneider, however, forced us to confront just how badly our criminal justice system has been failing victims and survivors of sexual assault. SB 12 represents an urgently needed fix to a glaring loophole, but it is only the beginning.”
The public was incensed when Schneider received no sentence for his crime. But his victim was not located by state prosecutors, which may have led to the lenient sentence.
Before Gov. Bill Walker left office, he promised to fix the loophole, and Gov. Mike Dunleavy is also on the record saying he supports tightening the law.