Post submitted by Akiesha Anderson, McCleary Law Fellow and Beck Zucker, McCleary Law Fellow
Yesterday, an Idaho man, Kelly Schneider, pled guilty to committing a federal hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act for the 2016 brutal beating and murder of Steven Nelson. Schneider has admitted to targeting him because of his sexual orientation and accepted a plea deal Wednesday of 28 years in prison. He has also pled guilty to first degree murder under Idaho state law and will face sentencing for those charges in March. In April 2016, Schneider met Nelson online and presented himself as a gay escort with the intention of robbing and attacking him. Schneider brutally attacked Nelson, kicking him repeatedly with steel-toe boots and stripping him of his clothes. Despite the severity of his injuries, Nelson walked about half a mile before coming in contact with someone that was able to assist him. Before he died, Nelson was able to give police vital information about the attack and his assailant.
Prosecutors allege that Schneider intentionally lured Nelson to a remote location prior to beating him to death because of his sexual orientation. Schneider has admitted that he intended to rob Nelson and has acknowledged that it was his repeated kicking of Nelson that led to his death.
Idaho, like many other states, currently lacks hate crime protection laws for LGBTQ people like Steven. This attack serves as an important reminder that much work remains to be accomplished to protect the LGBTQ community from these atrocious crimes. Despite Congress passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009, this Act only protects individuals in cases over which the federal government has jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Hate Crimes Statistics Report for 2015 reveals that hate crimes targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation rose by five percent within a year. While growing, this number likely only represents a fraction of such cases. Because reporting hate crime incidents to the FBI is not mandatory, in 2015 alone, thousands of law enforcement agencies throughout the country did not submit any data. These gaps in reporting combined with the absence of state legislation requiring law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes motivated by LGBTQ bias continue to undermine efforts to curb violence against members of our community.