Recent well publicized sex crimes have led to moves towards strengthening sex crime legislation in the state. Whether this is a knee jerk reaction or well thought out additions to the state’s laws on sex abuse and assault is a moot point.
The Justin Schneider case
There has undoubtedly been a lot of media coverage of two crimes in particular. The Justin Schneider case in 2017 involved the ‘choking,’ basically strangulation, of an indigenous Alaskan woman who had been offered a lift. Choking is reported to be a common method of intimidation by one person against another, often leading to a sexual assault. After choking the 25 year old woman Schneider admitted to masturbating and ejaculating on the woman. Schneider was arrested after the woman had made a statement following the attack and subsequently charged with sexual assault. He was given a two year prison sentence, with 1 year suspended, but this time was reduced to no prison time after his one year under house arrest already was taken into consideration. The conviction for assault was obtained as part of a plea deal with the 34 year old Schneider. Two other charges, one of harassment and the other of kidnapping, were dropped.
The Schneider case caused a lot of social anger at the time of the sentencing and there was a move to prevent the Judge at Schneider’s trial from keeping a position on the Supreme Court. This was ultimately successful. The state’s Attorney General, who was partly responsible for arranging the plea deal, was also heavily criticized.
Senate Bill 12 has been introduced to the Senate and proposes making two changes to the state’s sex crime laws to make choking, or strangulation, a more serious crime and masturbation and ejaculation on someone a sex crime, which it isn’t at the moment.
The Bill also proposes that time under house arrest cannot be taken into consideration when sentencing someone convicted of a sex crime.
The Peter Wilson case
The second high profile case which also involved an indigenous Alaskan female was that of the murder of Ashley Johnson-Barr, who was only 10 years old when she was found dead hidden behind a bunch of trees in Alaska’s North. Peter Wilson was found guilty of sexual abuse and strangulation and sentenced to prison, but the sentence didn’t please everyone in the community and the North West Alaskan community of Kotzebue was traumatized.
Senate Bill 35, recently introduced to the state Senate, takes aim at the severity of punishment for those involved in sexual assault and aims to make it tougher.
Defining sexual abuse
Several terms are used to refer to sex crimes and their real meaning is often poorly understood or there is an overlap between the meanings. In particular, sexual assault and sexual abuse are often conflated. Sexual abuse is usually used in conjunction with a sex crime involving children, or at least those who have not yet reached the age of consent, which is age 16 in Alaska. In fact, the age of consent in Alaska is not as fixed as in many other states. It focuses more on the age gap between the two people engaging in sexual activity. A crime is committed if an older person has sex or sexual contact with a younger person who is three years or younger and is younger than 16. There is no crime committed, however, if there is less than three years age gap.
Child sex abuse is any form of sexual contact with a minor for the sole purpose of sexual gratification by the older person. It could include actually exposing genitals or other sexual parts or direct sexual contact. It could also involve pressuring a minor to have sex, showing them pornography or using that minor to create pornography.
Sex crimes are taken very seriously most of the time in Alaska and it appears that sentencing is likely to become more severe as well as changes in the law which will make some acts which or previously not crimes or considered sex crimes.
If you have been accused of a sex crime of any sort, or face charges against you, you should contact criminal defense attorney, Dattan Scott Dattan, who will vigorously defend your innocence or will fight to represent you in court. You can contact the Law office of Dattan Scott Dattan in Anchorage at 907-276-8008.