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Alaska Legislature

Alaska House votes to close loophole in state sex-assault laws after Schneider case

JUNEAU — The Alaska House of Representatives voted 36-1 on Saturday to close a loophole in Alaska’s sexual assault laws that sparked outrage last year in Anchorage.

House Bill 14, by Rep. John Lincoln, D-Kotzebue, contains changes intended to address crimes similar to those committed by Justin Schneider, a former air traffic controller who choked a woman, then ejaculated on her unconscious body. Schneider, who spent a year on electronic monitoring before taking a plea deal, received no additional jail time for his crime.

Judge Michael Corey, who approved the plea deal, was subsequently rejected for retention by voters. Corey has said he was following existing law. That spurred a push to change the law.

House Bill 14, Lincoln said, makes strangulation and suffocation first-degree assault; allows strangulation to be used as an “aggravator” when calculating sentences for sexual assault; includes “unwanted contact with ejaculate” in the state’s definition of “sexual contact,” which allows it to be used in prosecuting sex crimes; and requires prosecutors to note whether a crime victim approves of a plea deal.

House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, unsuccessfully offered an amendment that would have eliminated the ability of accused Alaskans to receive prison credit for time spent on electronic monitoring prior to trial. That provision is also in separate criminal justice legislation.

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, was the lone no vote against the fix. Reps. Zack Fields, D-Anchorage; Sharon Jackson, R-Wasilla; and Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, were excused from the vote.

HB 14 now goes to the Senate for further consideration. Several other criminal justice bills are being considered in the House and Senate finance committees and are expected to receive full votes before the limit of the regular session on May 15.

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