Criminal Justice

Alaska governor to propose legislation after offender receives lenient plea deal for sex crime

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Alaska Gov. Bill Walker says he plans to propose legislation that would make unwanted contact with semen a sex crime following an outcry over a plea deal for a man accused of choking a woman to unconsciousness and masturbating on her face.

Justin Schneider was sentenced last week to two years in prison with one year suspended after pleading guilty to felony assault in a plea deal, report the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Anchorage Daily News and KTVA.

Schneider was given credit for the year he spent under house arrest, meaning he won’t have to spend any time in behind bars. He will also have to wear an ankle monitor and undergo sex offender treatment, but won’t have to register as a sex offender because his conduct doesn’t meet the criteria for a sexual assault charge, according Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik of Anchorage.

Alaska law defines sexual contact to require direct physical contact with genitals, buttocks or breasts. The governor says he would like to make unwanted contact with semen a sex offense with a penalty of two to 12 years in prison.

Police had alleged Schneider offered a ride to the victim, an Alaska Native, then stopped the car, choked the woman until she became unconscious, and ejaculated onto her face. The victim said Schneider had told her he was going to kill her, then later said he made the comment so he could be sexually fulfilled.

John Skidmore, criminal division director of the Alaska Department of Law, said in a press release that the state had dropped a kidnapping charge against Schneider because the victim willingly got in Schneider’s car and rode with him to the site of the assault. Skidmore said Grannik believed Schneider needed sex offender treatment, and the only way to achieve that result was through probation conditions that were part of the plea deal.

Keeley Olson, executive director of Standing Together Against Rape, told the Anchorage Daily News that Schneider should have been charged with attempted murder. She called the plea deal “absolutely appalling.”

Some are calling for the ouster of Judge Michael Corey, who imposed the sentence and is facing a retention election in November. A Facebook page calling for “NO retention” had nearly 3,400 followers as of Wednesday.

Corey said at sentencing that, at first blush, the sentence appeared too light, but he “it speaks volumes” that Grannik was recommending the sentence. Grannik knew more details about the case and about what could be proven, Corey said.

Grannik said during sentencing that he made the plea deal based on Schneider’s participation in the treatment program and an expert’s opinion that he had a low risk of re-offending. He also said he was unable to reach the victim by phone, and detectives would need to locate her if there were a trial.

Grannik said he hopes that Schneider does not reoffend. “But I would like the gentleman to be on notice that that is his one pass—it’s not really a pass—but given the conduct, one might consider that it is.”

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