‘Schneider loophole’ fix heads to governor’s desk



The Alaska Legislature has passed House Bill 14, closing the loophole that allowed an Anchorage man, Justin Schneider, to walk free after he had strangled and ejaculated on the unconscious body of his victim.

Sponsored by Rep. John Lincoln, HB 14 addresses the plea deal that Schneider’s lawyers struck with prosecutors, which under prior State law gave him credit for time served on an ankle monitor as he awaited trial. By the time he pleaded guilty, he was not required to go back to jail.

In August 2017, Schneider picked up a woman at a gas station, drove her to a deadens street, battered her, choked her until she was unconscious, and then ejaculated on her.

Schneider pleaded guilty to assault and was given two years, with one suspended, which was the maximum under the sentencing guidelines for one court of assault. He had been on an ankle monitor for long enough that he was not required to serve time in prison.

The judge, Michael Corey, was tossed by voters in November, 2018 after to the public outrage over the sentence, although he was following the state law. He’s the first judge to ever be removed by ballot in Alaska.

Ejaculating on a person without their consent could not be prosecuted as a sex crime when Corey was faced with his decision about whether to accept the agreement between the State prosecutor and defense attorneys. The woman had not been kidnapped, since she got into the car willingly. All they had was an assault crime (choking), with no aggravators to increase penalties.

Reached today, the former judge, who is now in private practice said he was glad to see HB 14 passed.

“I wish it had happened before, but I’m glad the law was changed. I strongly disliked the outcome [of the Schneider case]. I disliked the outcome as it was happening. It was my view the law required me to do what I did,” he said, referring to the sentence he gave to Schneider.

“People talk about it as a sexual assault. But the statutes did not define it that way. I was, quite frankly, astonished it was not sexual assault. But we want judges to follow the law, we don’t want activist judges. To think I woke up on that morning and said ‘let’s give that dirtbag a pass’ … well, that’s just depraved.”

[Read: A horrific crime, a perp walks free]

He also said the prosecutor, Andrew Grannik is not soft on crime and that Corey believes Grannik made the best deal he could make, given the law and the circumstances.

H.B. 14 also addresses strangulation.

“I thank everyone who supported this legislation, but most of all, I acknowledge the woman who survived the tragic incident that made the public aware that a troubling legal loophole exists,” said Rep .John Lincoln, the bill’s sponsor. “Because of the increased awareness and outpouring from Alaskans, victims of similar crimes will receive the justice they deserve from now on.”

Sen. Peter Micciche of Soldotna sponsored a Senate bill (SB 12) that was similar, but in the end promoted Lincoln’s bill for passage in the Senate, rather than his own bill.

“If this bill were in place two years ago, Justin Schneider would be in prison today and the victim would have known that Alaskans will not tolerate free passes to violent sexual predators.”

Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s signature is the final item needed to put this law on the books. Typically bill signings are done after session ends, which this one does in six days. But Dunleavy could decide to sign the bill as soon as it is transmitted to him.