No jail time for man who pleaded guilty in strangling assault
An Anchorage man walked out of court a free man Wednesday after changing his plea in the case of a brazen midday assault in which charging documents say he offered a woman a ride, then strangled her unconscious and masturbated on her.
An Anchorage grand jury indicted Justin Schneider, 34, on four felony charges including kidnapping and assault, and one misdemeanor count of Harassment I--offensive contact with fluids -- for the August 2017 incident.
Schneider struck a deal with the state, pleading guilty to a single felony assault charge in exchange for a sentence of two years with one suspended. Schneider faces no additional jail time. He received credit for time served while wearing an ankle monitor and living with his family.
A criminal complaint against Schneider, written by APD Detective Brett Sarber, said that the victim had been at the Holiday gas station at Minnesota Drive and Spenard Road, looking for a ride toward Muldoon. A man later identified as Schneider pulled up in a white SUV, introduced himself as “Dan” and claimed he knew the victim; he offered her a ride, which she accepted.
“(The victim) said that she had never met the man in her life prior to this encounter, and nothing else about their encounter involved drugs, sex or money, or sex for money,” Sarber wrote.
Instead of heading to Muldoon, the driver said he had to get something from another car and drove to the area of 36th Avenue and Turnagain Street, where they were stopped by road construction. A construction worker in the area later remembered Schneider, the victim and the SUV when police asked about them.
Schneider then stopped the SUV on 36th east of Wisconsin Street, and asked the victim to get out while he loaded items into the vehicle. Once she approached the rear of the vehicle, Sarber wrote, Schneider “full on tackled” her, shoving her to the ground. He then began to strangle her with both hands around her throat, telling her that he was going to kill her.
"She said she could not fight him off, he was too heavy and had her down being choked to death," Sarber wrote. "(The victim) said she lost consciousness, thinking she was going to die."
When the victim woke up, she told police, Schneider was rising from her and zipping up his pants. He offered her a tissue, which police later recovered as evidence.
"The man told her that he wasn't really going to kill her, that he needed her to believe she was going to die so that he could be sexually fulfilled," Sarber wrote.
The victim said Schneider also let her retrieve her backpack and cellphone from the SUV's front seat. Sarber said she used the phone to call police and report the vehicle's license-plate number the moment Schneider drove out of sight.
The license plate number, along with the victim's description of the man, led APD to Schneider, who had reportedly driven from the scene of the assault to his job at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, where he worked as a controller in the airport's tower.
Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik said Wednesday that Schneider lost his job working for the federal government as a result of the case, a consequence he called a "life sentence."
Grannik said he agreed to the plea deal based on Schneider's enrollment and progress in a treatment program, and an expert's assessment that the risk of him re-offending is low.
"I hope it doesn't happen," Grannik said. "That's the reason why I made the deal that I've made, because I have reasonable expectations that it will not happen. 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."
When given the opportunity to speak, Schneider offered no apology or recognition of the potential long-term impacts the assault might have had on his victim but highlighted the positive effects the case has had on his own life.
"I would just like to emphasize how grateful I am for this process," Schneider said. "It has given me a year to really work on myself and become a better person, and a better husband, and a better father, and I'm very eager to continue that journey."
Judge Michael Corey accepted the deal, noting the outcome of the case could be described as "breathtaking." He said his decision was based on the prospect of rehabilitation.
"Mr. Schneider is going to be a member of our community, and he would not be in jail for the rest of his life even if he had been convicted on all of the counts for which he was charged," said Judge Corey.
He also told Schneider, "This can never happen again."
Grannik said he attempted to reach the victim by phone to notify her about the hearing but was unsuccessful. He said had he needed to locate her for the purpose of a trial, he would have needed the assistance of detectives.
When asked why Schneider was not required to register as a sex offender, Grannik explained that the conduct in the case did not meet the legal requirements of sexual assault charges, even though the assault included sexual elements.
As part of the plea deal, Schneider must spend three years on probation.
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