Man guilty of sex with niece
May 1, 2014
'This case is involving a family secret, a secret that is despicable'
-John Werden, Carroll County Attorney
Steve Thomas Schneider hung his head as a judge read each of the six identical verdicts of guilty this morning to conclude his two-day trial for having sex with his teenage niece in 2009.
The verdicts in the felony sex-abuse case dragged out for many minutes after Schneider's attorney asked the judge to poll each juror to verify the result.
The victim, seated with her mother in the gallery near the jurors, sobbed and sobbed as Judge Gary McMinimee read and reread the same questions for the jurors, over and over.
The victim's relatives on the other side of the gallery near Schneider - who plainly showed favor to Schneider's claim of innocence - flashed sadness and anger, which was capped by his wife Crystal's outbursts and wails as the victim left the courtroom.
"You're nothing but a whore like your mother!" the woman shouted at the victim. "This is bullshit. It's not right. You didn't do anything. Don't take my husband. You didn't do this, Steve.
"I'm going to kill her. This is bullshit, you f---ing whore."
The woman was escorted from the courtroom, but her wails and screams were still audible as Schneider, 36, emptied his suit pockets and was frisked before he was taken to jail. McMinimee asked that the woman be removed from the courthouse, and her tirade continued as she walked outside into the parking lot.
Jurors deliberated for about 30 minutes this morning before returning the guilty verdicts for the sex-abuse charges, each of which are punishable by up to five years in prison. Schneider's punishment will be decided at a sentencing hearing later this month. He faces up to 30 years in prison, depending on whether a judge orders that the six sentences be served concurrently or consecutively.
The sex began when the victim was a seventh-grade student who was riddled with anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts, according to the prosecutor and defense attorney's closing remarks on Wednesday.
"She was 13 and thought she was in love," said Carroll County Attorney John Werden, who prosecuted the case. "She was exploited. She was used."
The Daily Times Herald does not identify the victims of sex abuse unless they consent.
The victim moved from Georgia to Iowa after her parents divorced, not long before the sex affair began. Her mother - who is a member of some branch of the U.S. military or Iowa National Guard - was deployed overseas, and the victim lived for a time with her grandparents.
The victim periodically saw Schneider on the family's farm south of Carroll.
The criminal charges stemmed from a six-month time period between January and June 2009, when Schneider was 31 and divorced, but the initial criminal complaint against the man - which was filed in November 2013 after the victim revealed the sexual relationship to her mother - alleged that the relationship started when the victim was 12 and lasted for about three years. It said the two engaged in vaginal, anal and oral sex, which was consensual. But adults cannot have sex with children younger than 16 under Iowa law.
Schneider allegedly admitted to the sex to his brother and sister - the mother of the victim.
Schneider's attorney, John Flynn, told the 12 jurors Wednesday in his closing remarks that there was insufficient proof to convict Schneider, in part because the victim could not recall the specific dates of the sex.
"This lack of specificity, these general allegations - that is a proof problem," Flynn said. "This is a proof and credibility problem."
Flynn then listed what he said were unanswered questions in the case:
- The victim didn't get pregnant despite the allegation that they "had sex almost every time they saw each other."
- The victim didn't ever see or feel Schneider's semen.
- There was no physical evidence.
- No one saw them have sex.
Flynn concluded Wednesday that the victim had opportunities to reveal the relationship earlier than she did to counselors or her mother, but she didn't because "nothing happened."
The words caused the victim to sob uncontrollably, and Schneider took long, blank-faced looks at her from his seat at the defendant's table up front.
Flynn then mentioned the victim's depression and suicidal thoughts and said, "What's the reliability of someone in that mental state?"
But Werden countered that "the clincher" in the case was Schneider's admissions of the sex to his brother.
Schneider did not testify in his defense.
As the victim and her mother exited the courtroom, a woman who appeared to be the victim's grandmother turned to them from her seat in the gallery and said:
"I hope you're happy."
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