GROUP WORKING TO OUST JUDGE AND PROSECUTOR
The parking lot at Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe was overflowing on a bright Saturday afternoon. Instead of planting bulbs or stacking wood, a few people were planning another march — this time against a sitting judge’s retention.
Inside the coffee shop, 25 people sat in a loose circle to vent their outrage at the light sentence handed down to Justin Schneider, the man who tricked a woman into getting into his vehicle, took her to a place where he intended to harm her, then strangled her to the point of unconsciousness, and jacked his semen on her.
The crime had occurred within a stone’s throw of the coffee shop.
Saturday’s group came from as far away as Wasilla to join forces after a social media brush fire burned hot in response to the news of Superior Court Judge Michael Corey’s hand-slap of a sentence.
That sentence allowed Schneider to walk free due to time served on an ankle monitor or in house arrest. The prosecutor told Schneider he was getting a “pass” just this one time.
Elizabeth Williams of Anchorage started a Facebook page called NO Retention for Judge Michael Corey.
More than 2,300 people are now following that Facebook page within its three-day lifespan. Williams also organized the meeting at the Writer’s Block.
A Native man named Sam spoke about how the victim was Alaska Native, and the perpetrator was white. He could not help but think that if the races were reversed, the sentence would have been harsher. He also said that Native women know that they are not important in society, and that is why it’s not surprising that the victim seems to have just disappeared.
By the meeting’s end, the date for a march and rally was set for Oct. 6 at Elizabeth Peratrovich Park downtown, and the group agreed that Judge Corey must be voted off the bench. They also want to force the resignation ofÂ Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik, who set the terms of the plea deal.
By Sunday, Williams had posted on Facebook items she encouraged people to share with their social media contacts:
POLITICS CREEP IN
Although the Saturday group brought together people from various walks of life, it was left-leaning, and the focus shifted back and forth from social justice and racism themes to the task of removing a sitting judge.
But if looked like a political opportunity for some: One of the organizers of the march is the Alaska Democratic Party’s finance director and campaign manager for Debra Call (Alaska Native) for lieutenant governor, who is Mark Begich’s running mate. Thus, it’s certain that the march will take on a decidedly political overtone against the sitting governor, who has been viewed by many as soft on crime after he signed SB 91.
GOV. WALKER PRESS RELEASE
After the outrage grew over the Schneider sentence on Thursday, the Department of Law moved quickly into action to defend the judge’s ruling. It issued a press release saying the sentence was in accordance with the law.
That was not enough to stop the wave of outrage.
By Friday evening, Gov. Bill Walker issued a press release saying he would fix the loophole that allowed the masturbation over the woman’s unconscious body to not be considered a sex offense.
Walker put the Choose Respect initiative to death while he focused on issues like the Alaska Gasline and taxes on Alaskans and their businesses, fishermen, miners, loggers, and wage-earners in Alaska.
Choose Respect was an initiative of Gov. Sean Parnell to stop violence and sexual assault in Alaska, where the crimes are the highest in the nation. For Walker, it was seen as a political program, and something he needed to disassociate from. Instead of a sexual assault prevention special assistant, he hired a climate change adviser in his cabinet.
But public safety has Walker’s attention now.
“Every victim deserves justice. This sort of outcome makes it even more difficult for victims to come forward. The punishment in this case in no way matched the severity of the crime,” Gov. Walker said on Friday. “We must fix this problem immediately, and we will.”
Walker said the fix will come through legislation he will propose this week to make causing unwanted contact with semen a sex offense. The penalty for a first time offense would carry jail time of 2-12 years and requires registration as a sex offender.
He plans other public safety legislation will be announced by Oct. 1 as part of what he is calling a public safety update.
MIKE DUNLEAVY TO HOLD CRIME TOWN HALL
Tuesday, the Republican nominee for governor will hold a town hall on crime in Anchorage, one of several he has been hosting around the state to hear the concerns and stories from Alaskans.