Schneider Sentenced for Federal Hate Crime Based on Victim’s Sexual Orientation
BOISE – Kelly Schneider, 23, of Nampa, Idaho, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court to 336 months in prison, five years of supervised release and a $5,000 fine based on his guilty plea to violently assaulting Steven Nelson because he was a gay man, resulting in Mr. Nelson’s death, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, and Acting U.S. Attorney Rafael M. Gonzalez, Jr., for the District of Idaho.
Schneider was indicted by a federal grand jury on January 10, 2017, with one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He pleaded guilty to the charge on February 7, 2017. He was sentenced today by Chief U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill.
“Kelly Schneider assaulted and killed a man because of the man’s sexual orientation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “This is a federal crime, and the Department of Justice will continue to work with our federal and state law enforcement partners to enforce our federal hate crimes laws.”
“Steven Nelson was assaulted and later died because he was gay,” said Gonzalez. “This is precisely the kind of bias motivated violence that the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act was passed to address. I commend the federal and local prosecutors and investigators who brought the defendant to justice.”
According to the plea agreement, on the evening of April 27, 2016, Schneider posted a solicitation for sex on backpage.com, an Internet website, which included a shirtless photo of himself. Mr. Nelson responded to that posting, and Schneider met with him the next evening. Schneider took Mr. Nelson’s money without engaging in any sexual act with Mr. Nelson. Before the encounter, Schneider told his friends that he was not gay and would not let anyone who was gay touch him.
In the early morning hours of April 29, Schneider resumed communication with Mr. Nelson. Schneider then conspired with other individuals to again rob Mr. Nelson. According to the plan, Schneider was to meet up with Mr. Nelson in a parking lot and ask Mr. Nelson to drive to Gott’s Point, an isolated wildlife area in the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge near Lake Lowell, for a sexual encounter. At Gott’s Point, Schneider would rob Mr. Nelson, and two of Schneider’s cohorts would be lying in wait as “back up” to assist Schneider if Mr. Nelson resisted the robbery.
When Schneider and Mr. Nelson reached Gott’s Point, Schneider immediately began physically assaulting Mr. Nelson, kicking him 20-30 times with steel-toed boots and repeatedly using a homophobic slur. Mr. Nelson never resisted throughout the attack. He died of his injuries later that day. No one else participated in the assault.
Schneider was sentenced earlier this month in state court for first degree murder based on Mr. Nelson’s death. The state court sentenced him to a fixed 28-year term of imprisonment and life indeterminate. Schneider’s federal sentence will be served concurrently to the state sentence.
The Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, with assistance from the Treasure Valley Metro Violent Crime Task Force, conducted the murder investigation. The FBI conducted the federal hate crime investigation.