Crime & Courts

Ousted Alaska judge supports changes in law after plea deal caused outrage

JUNEAU - An Alaska judge who was voted out of his position amid public outcry after a plea agreement in an assault case said Monday he was “crucified” for following the law.

Former Superior Court Judge Michael Corey testified via telephone before a Senate committee weighing legislation that seeks to close so-called loopholes in the law revealed by that case.

Corey, who lost a retention vote in November, said he supports the bill and offered suggestions for further clarifying it.

Justin Schneider was accused of attacking and masturbating on a woman in 2017. He pleaded guilty to felony assault and was sentenced to two years in prison with one year suspended. Having spent a year in home confinement, he had no more time to serve.

Following Schneider's sentencing in September, a Department of Law official said the sentence was consistent with existing laws.

Corey told senators there was no legitimate reason for him to reject the plea agreement. He said that as a judge, when his personal preferences and the letter of the law diverged, he was obligated to follow the law.

"And just because I followed the law doesn't mean I thought this was a good outcome. Quite frankly, now that I can speak freely, even before you get to what happened to me, if you're just talking about what happened to Justin Schneider and what happened particularly to his victim, absolutely this is a horrible result. Horrible," Corey said. "Of course, I can't very well say that on the bench, now can I?"


The bill under consideration seeks to tighten state laws addressing sexual assault.

In a written explanation of the measure, its sponsor, Republican Sen. Peter Micciche of Soldotna, said it would, among other things, classify unwanted contact with semen as a sex crime and eliminate credit toward time served for pretrial electronic monitoring. It also calls for prosecutors to make efforts to confer with victims of sexual felonies to see if they are in agreement with proposed plea agreements. The prosecutor would not be bound by the victim's response.

Corey raised the possibility of giving victims “veto power” over plea agreements or allowing judges to reject a plea agreement if the victim does not agree with the agreement.

Becky Bohrer, Associated Press

Becky Bohrer is a reporter for the Associated Press based in Juneau.