Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Meanwhile, in Alaska, A Travesty of Justice

The contents of this post include sexual violence.


This is what happened in Alaska in 2017: 

A woman was looking for a ride at a gas station.  A man offered her one, but did not drive her to her destination.  Instead, he told her that he needed to pick up something first, drove the car to a dead-end street in a residential area, and asked her step out of the car while he was loading something in the back.

He then pushed her to the ground, told her that he was going to kill her and then strangled her with both hands.  She lost consciousness.

When she regained consciousness, she found that he had ejaculated on her.  According to the detective in the case:

"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,"

This is what happened in Alaska in 2018:

The above case came to court:

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.

So it goes.

The Alaska Department of Law defended the sentence Schneider was given, which ended up amounting to no prison time at all, after Schneider's home arrest time was counted.  Oh, and Schneider lost his job as an air traffic controller at Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage and can never be employed by the government again, which Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik called a "life sentence."

Many regard the sentence as a travesty.  It was supposedly necessitated by badly written Alaskan laws, which do not count ejaculating on an unconscious woman as sexual violence* and which allow the ride Schneider offered to the victim to not be seen as kidnapping, as no force was used to get her in his car.  I am not equipped to say whether the fact that the victim was absent 
 from court affected the sentencing**.

But Grannik also defended the plea deal like this:

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."

I watched the video at this link.  Schneider thanks the court in it, but fails to mention any regret or concern for the victim:

"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."

We all pray fervently that Grannik is right, that Schneider (who needed to have the victim believe that she was going to die to ejaculate) has learned his lesson and will never, ever try anything like this again.

But I wonder if the bad laws in Alaska really are the full and complete explanation to this travesty of justice.  Other sources tell us that the victim is a Native Alaskan, while Schneider is white and belongs to the upper middle class.  He speaks the language of the judge who sentenced him and he appears to know how to manipulate others.

Would bad Alaskan laws have caused exactly the same outcome if a Native Alaskan man with no prestigious job had been the perpetrator? Or if Schneider had attacked a white woman of his own social class?  Or if a Native Alaskan man had attacked a white woman of Schneider's social class?

Or would another white perpetrator have been given "one pass" if he belonged to  a much lower social class and didn't possess Schneider's gift of knowing how to speak in court?

I'm not at all sure that the sentence would have been the same in all those cases.  What I am sure about is this:  The actual decision in this case is not one which prioritizes the safety of women.


*  And because what happened is not interpreted as sexual violence, Schneider will not have to register as a sex offender, either!

**According to Washington Post:

State officials have said they tried to contact the victim but could not reach her.
The Alaska Star reported that Schneider’s victim was not at the hearing and had, according to police, been traumatized “to the point where she couldn’t hardly speak” after the assault.