Former Eagle River man who strangled woman reaches plea deal with prosecutors
UPDATE: On Friday, the state issued a response to concerns from citizens about the percieved light sentence Schneider received as a result of his plea agreement. Prosecutors said Schneider was sentenced in accordance with existing state law and explained some elements of his alleged crimes — specifically the most serious charge of kidnapping — couldn’t have been proven.
Editor’s note: This story contains graphic descriptions of sexual violence that may be disturbing to some readers.
A former Eagle River man who choked a woman into unconsiousness before sexually assaulting her won’t have to serve jail time after making a deal with Anchorage prosecutors.
According to KTVA-TV, Justin Scott Schneider, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of second-degree assault for the attack in August of 2017. At a change-of-plea hearing Wednesday, judge Michael Corey agreed to sentence Schneider to two years in prison with one year suspended; Schneider was given credit for the time he spent on house arrest awaiting trial.
Wednesday’s sentencing was covered by the Anchorage station, which aired portions of the hearing, including comments from Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik, who said the plea deal could be considered “a pass” for Schneider and that he hoped the 34-year-old — who has no previous criminal record in Alaska — would be a good candidate for rehabilitation.
“That’s the reason I made the deal that I made because I have reasonable expectations that it will not happen,” Grannik said. “But I would like the gentleman to be on notice that is his one pass — it’s not really a pass — but given the conduct, one might consider it is.”
Grannik did not return a call seeking comment Thursday. It was unclear whether Schneider lives in Anchorage or Eagle River; municipal property records show he and his wife own a duplex on Mercy Drive in Eagle River and another on E. 50th Avenue in Anchorage. No one answered the door at either location on Thursday. Schneider lived in Eagle River at the time of his arrest, but a change-of-address motion was filed with the court in June.
According to charging documents in the case, a 25-year-old Native woman told police Schneider picked her up at a gas station in Midtown Anchorage, drove to a secluded location, and attacked her.
“[Schneider] immediately and violently grabbed her neck in a front choke hold with both hands and told her if she screamed, he’d kill her,” wrote APD detective Brett Sarber. “…the man kept squeezing her neck harder, and then told her that he was indeed going to kill her.”
The woman passed out thinking she was dying. When she woke up, she was covered in ejaculate and Schneider was standing over her in the process of zipping up his pants.
The woman called 911 and was taken to the emergency room at the Alaska Native Medical Center, where she was interviewed by police.
“[She] was very traumatized, and was very emotionally upset recalling the event,” detective Sarber wrote. “To the point where she couldn’t hardly speak.”
A construction worker was able to place Schneider with the victim at the scene of the assault, and the woman was able to pick Schneider out of a lineup.
“You don’t forget the face of the man who almost killed you,” she told police.
Judge Corey said that since Schneider would eventually get out of prison, the public might as well be ready for Schneider to reintegrate now.
“Mr. Schneider’s going to be a member of our community,” the judge said. “And he will 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.”
Schneider was originally indicted on kidnapping, assault and harassment charges. In a press release issued by the state on Aug. 16, 2017, prosecutors said Schneider could have faced up to 99 years in prison for the kidnapping charge alone.
At Wednesday’s hearing, Schneider thanked the court for the “process” and characterized the experience in positive terms.
“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,” he told the judge.
“Alright, thank you, sir. I appreciate those comments,” Corey replied.
Schneider’s victim did not attend the hearing.
Word of the sentence traveled quickly on social media, where a Facebook post about the case by Jezebel.com racked up nearly 800 shares in the first six hours after it was posted Thursday morning.
Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org