Kelly Bryan Schneider, who confessed to the brutal beating death of a gay man in Idaho, was sentenced to 28 years in prison this week after admitting that he committed the crime because of the victim’s sexual orientation.
The federal hate crime sentence will be concurrent with a 28-year state prison term Schneider received in January after pleading guilty to a state charge of first-degree murder. Idaho state law does not include an individual’s sexual orientation as a motive for a crime.
So, after his guilty plea in state court, Schneider was charged in January with a federal hate crime under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act signed into law in 2009 by then-President Obama.
The murder and federal hate crime charge were related to the April 29, 2016, death of Steven Nelson, 49, near Lake Lowell in southern Idaho.
Three other suspects, Jayson Woods, 28, Kevin R. Tracy, 21, both of Nampa, Idaho, and Daniel Henkel, 23, of Wilder, Idaho, also were charged with state murder charges, but don’t face federal hate crime charges.
Schneider, 23, of Nampa, and the other three were accused of luring Nelson to Gott’s Point near Lake Lowell, in southern Idaho. Investigators determined Schneider used his steel-toed boots to kick the victim in the head before robbing him and stealing his vehicle.
The victim, stripped naked and left for dead, later was taken to a hospital, where he died of cardiac arrest.
Defense attorney Dick Rubin told the court about Schneider’s “turbulent childhood and a history of mental illness” going back to age 9 when he was hospitalized in a psychiatric facility, the Idaho Statesman reported.
Schneider was sent to a juvenile corrections facility when he was 16 and remained in prison until he was 22. He had been out on parole only about five months when he committed the murder.
Schneider apologized to the victim’s family in court, the Boise newspaper reported.
“I’m truly sorry for the pain and suffering I’ve put your family through,” Schneider said in addressing the victim’s family. “There’s nothing I can ever do to make it up.”
The prosecution’s sentencing memorandum, prepared by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aaron N. Lucoff and filed earlier this month, was sealed from public inspection — a somewhat unusual step in such high-profile hate crime cases. No reasons for the secrecy are given in publicly available court documents.
In court, the federal prosecutor said the 28-year sentence “represents both society’s condemnation of what happened to Nelson and its condemnation of hate crimes, specifically those based upon a person’s sexual orientation,” the Boise newspaper reported.