Southcentral Alaska voters will get to decide whether the judge who approved a no-jail plea deal for a man guilty of kidnapping a woman, strangling her into unconsciousness and masturbating on her should stay on the job.
Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey is one of 15 judges who will appear on the oft-overlooked judicial election section of this year’s general election ballot for voters. He’ll appear on the ballot in the 28 House districts within the third judicial district (you can find a full list through the Division of Election’s sample ballots).
The story has circulated nationally, and there’s already a group organizing to defeat Judge Corey’s retention.
The Alaska Constitution requires judges be put before voters regularly. Corey has served on the Anchorage Superior Court since 2014 and was recommended for retention by the nonpartisan Alaska Judicial Council this year. If voters reject his retention, he would be removed from the bench 90 days after the election.
Corey was the judge who approved a plea deal for Justin Schneider, who had been facing four felony charges, including kidnapping and assault as well as a misdemeanor charge of harassment for “offensive contact with fluids,” for the August 2017 assault.
In a deal between him and the state, Schneider pleaded guilty to a single felony assault charge for a sentence of two years with one suspended. The victim, who the state attorney said they were unable to contact via phone, was not present at the hearing.
Even though his sentence includes prison time, he won’t serve any time in prison for the active term because Judge Corey approved credit for time served on electronic monitoring in the year since the assault. Judges are allowed–but not required–to grant credit for time served on electronic monitoring allowed under state law (the amount of credit that offenders can apply to a sentence was capped to a year under Senate Bill 91 for the most serious crimes).
During the hearing, which was reported on by KTVA, Corey said he approved the case based on Schneider’s prospect of rehabilitation.
“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,” said Judge Corey.
He also told Schneider, “This can never happen again.”
According to KTVA, Schneider “offered no apology or recognition of the potential long-term impacts the assault might have had on his victim” at this week’s hearing. Schneider will also get to avoid being registered as a sex offender because none of the charges were specifically related to sex crimes.
The response to the plea deal has been swift outrage, as the case raises similarities to other white men–like Brock Turner–getting off easy for heinous sex crimes. In fact, the judge in the Brock Turner case was recalled and removed from office earlier this year.