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Alaska Man Given 'A Pass' After Pleading Guilty To Choking, Sexually Assaulting Native Woman

The deal has enraged Alaskans and has inspired a Facebook campaign aimed at ousting the judge responsible. 

By Gina Tron

A man in Anchorage, Alaska, who authorities say offered a woman a ride and choked her until she was unconscious only to assault her has gotten a "pass" from the judicial system after making a deal with the prosecution.

Justin Schneider, 34, pleaded guilty to one count of felony assault in the case. A kidnapping charge was dropped as part of the plea deal.

"That's the reason why I made the deal that I've made, because I have reasonable expectations that it [the suspect re-offending] will not happen,"  prosecutor Andrew Grannik said, according to KTVA in Juneau. "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."

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey sentenced Schneider to two years with a year suspended after accepting the deal.

"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," Corey said.

Schneider also received credit for a year he served under house arrest, and will serve no additional time as long as he doesn't violate the conditions of his probation.

The sentence drew public outrage Friday, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

A movement is underway calling for the ouster of the judge. An Anchorage social worker created a Facebook page calling for a "no" vote Nov. 6 on retaining Corey.

Schneider choked an Alaska Native woman and then masturbated over her unconscious body, according to charging documents. He also told the woman he would kill her if she screamed, Anchorage police detective Brett Sarber wrote in a sworn affidavit.

When offered the chance to speak in court, Schneider did not apologize.

"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."

The victim was not present or on the phone during the hearing.

The sentence highlights a deeply flawed legal system, according to sexual assault advocates.

"This is another example of an Alaska Native woman not getting the justice they deserve," said Elizabeth Williams, a sex-assault survivor.

A number of concerned citizens told the state law department that they also believed Schneider's sentence was too lenient.

Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik has argued that Schneider lost his job as an air traffic controller over the charges and called that a "life sentence."

Criminal Division Director John Skidmore reviewed the case and said it was "consistent with, and reasonable, under current sentencing laws in Alaska."

Schneider did not have a criminal record prior to the incident.

Gov. Bill Walker agreed that the sentence was insufficient and said in a statement that he wants to toughen laws.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

[Photo: Associated Press]

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