Tag Archives: federal charges

Idaho man pleads not guilty to hate crime in killing of gay man

An Idaho man charged with a federal hate crime in the beating death of a gay man pleaded not guilty in Boise’s U.S. District Court.

A March trial was set for 23-year-old Kelly Schneider, who pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in state court this week.

He was indicted earlier this month on the hate crime charge that accused him of attacking Steven Nelson last year because he was gay.

Few documents have been filed in the federal court case so far, but the details of the attack are outlined in the related state court case: Prosecutors say Schneider used an online personals ad on Backdoor.com to lure the 49-year-old Nelson to a remote recreation area near Lake Lowell in southwestern Idaho.

There Nelson was robbed, stripped, beaten and left.

Despite being critically injured, naked and barefoot, Nelson managed to walk to a home about a half-mile away for help. He was able to give police information before he died a few hours later.

Schneider pleaded guilty in state court to first-degree murder.

But Idaho’s state hate crime law doesn’t extend protections to people who are gay or lesbian, and so Schneider was transferred to federal custody to face the hate crime charge.

Schneider was one of four men charged in connection with the attack in Idaho’s state courts.

On Monday, Schneider pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, saying that he intended to rob Nelson but not kill him. He acknowledged that he kicked Nelson repeatedly and that his actions caused Nelson’s death.

In exchange for his guilty plea, state prosecutors agreed to drop robbery, theft and conspiracy charges. He now faces life in state prison, as well as a possible life sentence in federal prison if he is convicted on the federal hate crime charge.

The other three men in the state case — Jayson Woods, 28; Kevin R. Tracy, 21; and Daniel Henkel, 23 — are still awaiting trial on first-degree murder, robbery and conspiracy charges.

Schneider has a lengthy criminal history in Idaho. But the only other violent crime on his record is an injury to an officer conviction that appears to stem from his time spent in the Canyon County jail in 2012.

Still, Deputy Canyon County Prosecutor Chris Boyd said during Schneider’s state court arraignment last year that he believed Schneider had lured and beaten other victims many times before and the sheriff’s office said at the time they had received tips about others who may have been victimized in the same way.

However, no additional cases have been filed against Schneider in state court.

Pastor headed for trial in lesbian custody case

A Virginia pastor facing federal charges he helped a former Vermont woman flee the country with her child will probably try to argue he didn’t know she was fleeing so she wouldn’t have to share custody with her former lesbian partner, federal prosecutors said this week.

During a court hearing in U.S. District Court in Burlington, prosecutors and the defense attorney for Kenneth Miller, of Stuarts Draft, Va., discussed some of the details of his upcoming trial.

Judge William Sessions ruled Miller’s trial should begin Aug. 7, rejecting a request by prosecutors to delay the trial because the wife of a key witness living in Nicaragua is expecting a baby around that time. The trial is expected to last about a week.

The witness has been questioned by prosecutors and defense attorneys, and Miller is eager to go to trial, said defense attorney Joshua Autry, of Harrisburg, Pa.

“There is not going to be a plea in this case,” Autry said in court. “He is hoping for an acquittal.”

Miller, a Mennonite pastor, is charged with aiding and abetting in international kidnapping. Prosecutors say Miller helped Lisa Miller, who’s not related to him, and her daughter, Isabella, now 10, drive in September 2009 from Virginia to Buffalo, N.Y., where Lisa Miller and her daughter entered Canada. Once in Canada, they were met by another Mennonite who helped them in Toronto to board a plane that took them to Mexico City, from where they traveled to Nicaragua.

Lisa Miller and her former lesbian partner, Janet Jenkins, were joined in a Vermont civil union in 2000. In April 2002, Lisa Miller gave birth to Isabella, conceived through artificial insemination. For a time the two raised Isabella together, but in November 2003 Lisa Miller filed to dissolve the civil union. Custody initially was granted to Lisa Miller with liberal visitation rights for Jenkins.

But over the years Lisa Miller refused to comply with the visitation orders. The Supreme Courts of Vermont and Virginia ruled in favor of Jenkins.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.

In late 2009, a Vermont family court judge gave Jenkins custody, but by the time the transfer date arrived Lisa Miller and Isabella were in Nicaragua. They were last known to be in Nicaragua in early 2010.

Prosecutors said they believe Kenneth Miller’s attorneys may try to claim he didn’t know when he helped Lisa Miller leave the country that Jenkins had visitation rights with Isabella. They will argue he helped Lisa Miller and Isabella flee the country to ensure Jenkins would not have access to the child.

Prosecutors asked the judge to prevent Kenneth Miller from claiming Lisa Miller was the only true parent and from questioning whether Jenkins was a fit parent or whether a person has a duty to obey “God’s law” over U.S. law.

Autry said he and his client would not make those arguments.

Kenneth Miller, who had about a dozen friends and relatives in court with him, declined to comment.

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