Kelly Schneider, 23, of Nampa, Idaho, was sentenced yesterday in U.S. District Court to 336 months in prison followed by five years of supervised release based on his guilty plea to violently assaulting Steven Nelson because he was a gay man, resulting in Nelson’s death, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Tom Wheeler 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 Jan. 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 Feb. 7, 2017. He was sentenced today by Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill for the U.S. Courts of the District of Idaho.
“This sentence makes it clear that we as a society cannot and will not tolerate violence – in this case escalating to a vicious murder – against persons based on their sexual orientation or any other characteristic,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Wheeler. “The Department of Justice is committed to using every tool at its disposal to combat such brutal violence.”
“Steven Nelson was assaulted and later died because he was gay,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Gonzalez. “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, 2016, 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 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 Nelson. Schneider then conspired with other individuals to again rob Nelson. According to the plan, Schneider was to meet up with Nelson in a parking lot and ask 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 Nelson, and two of Schneider’s cohorts would be 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 Nelson, kicking him 20-30 times with steel-toed boots and repeatedly using a homophobic slur. 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 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.