House passes a bill to strengthen sex crime laws
The Alaska House of Representatives overwhelming approved a bill designed, in part, to close a sexual assault law loophole that was revealed in a case last summer that triggered statewide outrage and national attention.
In that case, former air traffic controller Justin Schneider was originally charged with four felony charges and a single misdemeanor of harassment – offensive contact with fluids – in a 2017 incident.
Charging documents said Schneider offered a woman a ride, then strangled her unconscious and masturbated on her. But a plea deal one year later allowed Schneider to avoid jail time.
Rep. John Lincoln’s House Bill 14 will classify ejaculating on people without their consent as a sex crime, and it recognizes the grave nature of strangling someone to the point of becoming unconscious. The bill also requires notification to all sex crime victims, not just felony victims.
The plea deal cost Superior Court Judge Michael Corey his job when voters failed to approve his retention at the polls.
Corey has since publicly testified that he may not have approved the deal had he been able to hear from the victim.
Lincoln, a Democrat from Kotzebue in his first full term, reflected on the murder of 10-year-old Ashley Johnson Barr when addressing his colleagues on the House.
“Anytime a victim comes forward, asks for help, we need to be there for them 100 percent every single time,” Lincoln said. “With the Schneider case, we as a state totally failed that young lady. This bill is an important step forward in fixing that situation and sending a clear message to her and every other Alaska we care about them and we want them to be safe.”
HB 14 passed with a 36-1 vote but still needs to be cleared by the Senate.
Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, has a similar bill in the Senate that has advanced to the Senate Finance Committee.
Both bills join a stack of crime bills proposed by state lawmakers and Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Both chambers are accelerating crime bill hearings hoping to cobble together crime legislation before the session ends May 15.
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