Voters in Alaska’s Third Judicial District have voted to oust Superior Court Judge Michael Corey, the judge who approved the no-jail plea deal in a shocking assault that made national headlines.
As of the current vote tally, voters have rejected Corey by a 6.4-point margin.
The outrage revolved around Judge Corey’s approval of a plea deal for Anchorage man Justin Schneider, who was charged with kidnapping a woman, strangling her into unconsciousness and masturbating on her. He had 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.
The state prosecutors reached a plea deal with Corey where he pleaded guilty to a single felony assault charge for a sentence of two years with one suspended. Though the sentence did technically include a year of jail time, he was able to avoid any time behind bars because Judge Corey approved credit for time served on electronic monitoring in the year since the assault (allowable under a law approved before criminal justice reform was passed).
The details of the story caused widespread outrage while the state and some legal watchers sought to defend the sentence and the deal. The state argued that it was the laws that were broken when it came to Schneider escaping from having to register as a sex offender and that the sentence was in line with the state laws.
Many in the criminal justice system came to his defense, arguing in the pages of the Anchorage Daily News’ opinion section that Judge Corey shouldn’t be held as a scapegoat (which is where the ADN’s editorial board eventually landed), but not all in the criminal justice system agreed.
“The judge didn’t have to accept the sentence the parties proposed,” wrote Val Van Brocklin, a former state and federal prosecutor in Alaska. “He could have rejected it as too lenient, which would have entitled Schneider to withdraw his plea. The prosecutor would have then been negotiating with the leverage that the court was not going to accept no jail. The judge could’ve deferred sentencing and ordered a pre-sentence report.”
In the wake of the sentence, Elizabeth Williams and her brother Isaac Williams launched a group “No More Free Passes Vote NO on Judge Michael Corey” to oppose his retention.
The group scraped together $3,350 in contributions, according to campaign disclosure reports filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission. The group bought some ads on radio and Facebook.
The group celebrated its victory on Wednesday and is already turning its attention to the future.
“Moving forward, we will no longer be discussing Mr. Corey. I believe his family and friends when they tell me he is a great man, husband, and father. He deserves privacy and peace during this time. We wish him nothing but the best in his future,” explained a post. “From here on out, we will be focused on legislative advocacy and holding the department of law accountable for their handling of sex crimes. Voting out a judge was the easy part—now the hard work begins to make lasting change.”
The group plans to hold a meeting later this month to discuss its next steps forward.