Schneider plea draws outrage, calls to oust judge
What began as a Facebook page expressing outrage over the sentence of an Anchorage man, who admitted to strangling a woman unconscious then masturbating on her, is quickly becoming a grassroots effort to remove the judge who approved his plea deal.
About two dozen people, some from as far away as Wasilla and Palmer, joined Elizabeth Williams at Writer’s Block Bookstore & Cafe. They are launching a campaign against this year's general-election retention vote for Superior Court Judge Michael Corey.
The defendant in the case, 34-year-old Justin Schneider, had faced four felony charges but struck a deal with the state Wednesday. Schneider admitted to a single felony assault charge, in exchange for a sentence of two years with one suspended.
Under state law, Schneider received credit for time served while wearing an ankle monitor under house arrest. He faces no additional jail time, and walked out of court a free man.
Upon learning of Schneider’s case, which has quickly gained national attention, Williams created a Facebook page called NO retention for Judge Michael Corey. The page has since generated nearly 2,000 followers, as well as interest for Saturday’s gathering at Writer’s Block.
Williams told KTVA in a subsequent interview she had a visceral reaction when she heard that Schneider wasn't going to be jailed in the case.
"I was just absolutely appalled that he was going to be out on the streets again, and that Alaskan women were again going to be let down by the justice system," Williams said. "I was also outraged that this woman didn't have a voice in the court proceeding, and that no one was advocating for her and no one was speaking for her needs including the judge."
On Saturday, the group at Writer's Block elicited tempered outrage over what they believe is a miscarriage of justice.
“I’m so mad, I can’t see straight,” said Anchorage resident Ann Septon. “I’m so angry.”
“It’s a complete disregard for what actually took place,” said Anchorage resident Keeley Wilson.
Jo Royal traveled from Wasilla to attend the meeting, offering the hashtag slogans #NotToday and #EnoughIsEnough.
For some the Schneider case invoked memories a Stanford University swimmer’s 2015 assault. A jury convicted Brock Turner of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman, then a judge sentenced him to six months in jail, a sentenced deemed too lenient.
Corey was appointed in 2014 by former Gov. Sean Parnell. The Alaska Judicial Council backs his retention for another six years in the November election, during which voters can opt instead to remove him from his seat.
KTVA did reach out to Corey for comment, but a court spokeswoman said in an email judges are prohibited by the Code of Judicial Conduct – also known as the ethics code for judges – “from publicly commenting on any matter pending or impending in the courts other than explaining the procedures of the court.”
In questionnaire judges fill out for the Council, Corey wrote of his judicial philosophy: “For more than three years I have dedicated myself to becoming the best judicial officer possible. Every day, I strive to perpetuate the integrity and credibility of our judiciary. I am grateful that my placement in this position has been well received by most with who I come into contact.”
On Friday John Skidmore, director of the state Department of Law’s Criminal Division, said he reviewed the case and the plea deal. He concluded the sentence was “consistent with, and reasonable under current sentencing laws.”
“This is a reasonable sentence given what the law would allow,” Skidmore said in an interview regarding his findings. “Do I like the sentence? No. Would I like to see it be harsher? Absolutely -- but this was reasonable in light of what the law allowed us to do.”
Skidmore also on Friday morning met with Gov. Bill Walker and Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth, who later announced their wishes to close a loophole demonstrated by Schneider's case and make causing unwanted contacted with semen a sex offense.
In a Friday news release, Walker’s office said he and Lindemuth would announce proposed legislation that would be part of a broader public safety plan.
“I can't tell you the law will be changing because quite frankly that is up to the Legislature as to whether or not they want to pass something,” Skidmore said. “What I do know is that the attorney general and the governor looked at this and said we don't like this outcome, we don't like the way it looks.”
Williams called it a good start.
“We definitely commend them for that,” she said. “It’s been a loophole for far too long and it’s also not enough.”
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