Message Received

Justin Schneider in court, photographer unknown

Justin Schneider in court, photographer unknown

WC’s analysis of the sentence imposed on sexual pervert Justin Schneider criticized both the District Attorney for under-charging the perp and the trial judge for approving the plea bargain. WC suggested that “a thoughtful voter will need to decide whether or not to vote to retain Judge Corey as a Superior Court Judge when he stands for election this coming November.”

The Alaska voters have spoken. Judge Corey was not retained.

That hasn’t happened very often. Judge Vochoska in 1982; Judge Postma in 2010. There have been a lot of close calls – judges getting voter approval in the low 50% range – but voters don’t commonly disapprove a judge in Alaska. Judge Corey was by no means Alaska’s worst trial court judge, either.

But the message has been received.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports (paywall) that about a week ago Fairbanks Superior Court Judge Michael MacDonald would not accept a plea bargain because the judge thought the sentence was too light for the circumstances of the offense. Judge MacDonald did, or at least seems prepared to do, what Judge Corey didn’t: reject a plea bargain.

Vasilyi Bill Malyk, 21, is the perp who burnt the Clearwater Lodge outside of Delta Junction, as well as a private home, in 2014. In 2016, Malyk plead guilty to arson and was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison with an additional 5 1/2 years of suspended time. He was also ordered to pay $230,000 in restitution. Apparently, Malyk was in jail during the extended pretrial proceedings; the credit for that time completed his jail sentence and he was released.

On July 3, Malyk confronted one of his neighbors, a person who had testified against Malyk in the earlier arson case. According to the News-Miner, Malyk then attacked the man in the victim’s own driveway:

Malyk’s neighbor told troopers Malyk was walking around the neighborhood with three backpacks and a blue purse and “acting weird.” Malyk appeared to be high on methamphetamine and was standing across the road while looking at the man’s house and repeatedly lifting his sunglasses up and putting them back on his face.

The man told Malyk to leave and go back to his parents’ house. Malyk dropped his bags, walked across the road and came into the man’s driveway. The man’s dog “started going nuts,” and Malyk pulled out a pocket knife and said he would “smoke” the dog.

The man demanded Malyk leave his property, and Malyk replied, “After the (expletive) that went down you’re going to pay for it and your family’s going to pay for it even more.”

Malyk pulled a small pocket knife and tried to stab the man at least 10 times. The two fought for the knife and Malyk punched the man several times, giving him a black eye. The man’s 12-year-old son called Alaska State Troopers and Malyk went back to his parents’ house.

Malyk was indicted  on charges of felony third-degree assault and misdemeanor fourth-degree assault. Malyk was prepared to plead guilty to the felony assault charge Thursday in return for a sentence of 12 months. The terms of the agreement specified that Malyk would not be required to serve any of the suspended time in his prior arson conviction. That would have gotten Malyk the lightest possible sentence for a two-time felon up for third degree assault.

At the November 7 plea hearing, Judge MacDonald told the parties he was concerned about  Malyk’s mental health, violent behavior and possible danger to the community. He asked Assistant District Attorney Risa Leonard to justify the plea agreement, given the aggravated nature of the assault offense, Malyk’s “rejection of probation” and the fact that he’d “picked up another felony” while on probation for the arson case.

Leonard said the plea agreement accounted for the “strengths and weaknesses in the state’s case as far as the assault” and said the imposition of Malyk’s suspended time in the arson case would make it difficult for him to pay restitution. “It would be in the best interest of those victims that he remain on felony probation,” Leonard said.

MacDonald told Malyk’s public defender, Jonathan Biderman, that he needed more information before deciding whether a minimum sentence was appropriate.

“The court is not prepared to accept it,” MacDonald said. “The court’s not rejecting it, the court would require a presentence report before the court would accept the agreement.”

A presentence report is prepared by Department of Corrections staff and contains information about a defendant’s prior criminal convictions, financial condition, characteristics and circumstances affecting his or her behavior. After reviewing the presentencing report, Judge MacDonald will resume Malyk’s plea hearing 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 21.

WC respectfully suggests that the fallout from the Schneider sentencing had a lot to do with Judge MacDonald’s reluctance to rubber stamp Malyk’s plea bargain.