Kelly Schneider, 23, of Nampa, pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court to violently assaulting a gay man, resulting in his death. It happened last April in a remote area of Canyon County.
Schneider was indicted by a federal grand jury on January 10, with one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
“Kelly Schneider assaulted and killed a man because of the man’s sexual orientation,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “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 (the victim) was assaulted and later died because he was gay,” said U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson. “This is precisely the kind of bias-motivated violence that the Shepard-Byrd Act was passed to address. The federal prosecution in this case makes clear that this office, the Civil Rights Division and its law enforcement partners will pursue justice when a person is violently attacked based on who he loves and how he loves.”
According to the plea agreement, on the evening of April 27 of last year, Schneider posted a solicitation for sex on backpage.com, an Internet website, which included a shirtless photo of himself. Nelson responded to that posting, and Schneider met with him the next evening.
Schneider took Nelson’s money without engaging in any sexual act with him. Before the encounter, Schneider told his friends that he was not gay, and would not let anyone who was gay touch him, according to reports.
In the early morning hours of April 29, Schneider resumed communication with Nelson. Schneider then conspired with other individuals to again rob him.
According to the plan, Schneider was to meet up with Nelson in a parking lot and ask him to drive to Gott’s Point, an isolated wildlife area in the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge near Lake Lowell in Canyon County, for a sexual encounter.
At Gott’s Point, Schneider would rob Nelson, with two of Schneider’s cohorts lying in wait as “back up” to assist Schneider if Nelson resisted the robbery.
When Schneider and Nelson reached Gott’s Point, Schneider immediately began physically assaulting the victim, kicking him 20 to 30 times with steel-toed boots and repeatedly using a homophobic slur, according to court documents.
Nelson never resisted the attack.
He died of his injuries later that day.
Sentencing is set for April 26, 2017, in front of Chief U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill. The charge of willful assault based on sexual orientation, resulting in death, is punishable by up to life in prison, supervised release of not more than five years, and a $250,000 fine.
Schneider also pleaded guilty on January 23, in state court to first-degree murder based on Nelson’s death.