A Sexual Assault and a Pot Club: Guess Which One Alaska Treated More Harshly?

Two high-profile crimes committed in Anchorage highlight a seemingly unequal criminal justice system.



Compare and contrast two court cases. Both took place in Alaska, and both were tried this year.

One involves Justin Schneider of Anchorage, who offered a ride to a woman he did not know in August 2017. Instead of taking her to the place she requested, he pulled over to the side of a road, tackled her, choked her, threatened to kill her, and masturbated on her. He was charged with four felonies related to kidnapping and assault, plus a misdemeanor count of offensive contact with fluids.

The other involves Charlo Greene, whose real name is Charlene Egbe. She went viral in 2014 when she quit her job as a TV reporter live on the air, announcing in the process that she was the owner of a marijuana club and was moving on to fight for legalization. Greene worked with other activists to help Alaska become the third state to legalize recreational cannabis in November 2015. But a few months before legalization passed, Anchorage police raided her club. She initially pleaded not guilty to 8 felony counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance, but she changed her plea after the charges were raised to 14 counts, meaning she faced up to 54 years in prison.

Both defendants took plea deals. Schneider agreed to plead to a single felony count of assault, Greene to a single felony count of misconduct involving a controlled substance.

After spending a year wearing an ankle monitor and living with his family, Schneider learned last week that he will spend no additional time in jail for his crime. Schneider had lost his federal government job, and Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Andrew Grannik decided that this was already a "life sentence." At one point, he slipped and referred to the sentence as a "pass."

Greene's fate is not yet determined. A judge will decide whether or not to accept her plea deal in November, well over three years after she was initially charged. But she will certainly pay $10,000 and forfeit all the items seized during the police investigation into her club. And because she pleaded guilty, she will no longer be able to work in the state's cannabis industry.

So a man who committed a violent assault deserves more mercy than a woman who committed a completely nonviolent offense involving a drug that the state doesn't even ban anymore? The message may be unintended, but it's still stark.