- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 2, 2018

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Three Alaska gubernatorial candidates expressed disgust with the sentence of a man who assaulted a woman last year, with one suggesting, to applause, that the judge be removed from the bench.

Justin Schneider, who authorities say choked and masturbated on the woman, pleaded guilty to felony assault in a deal with prosecutors. He was sentenced to two years in prison with one year suspended.

He has no more time to serve after spending a year in home confinement.

Neither Gov. Bill Walker nor Democrat Mark Begich went as far as Libertarian Billy Toien, who during a Get out the Native Vote candidate forum Tuesday said the judge “needs to be thrown from the bench immediately.”

Superior Court Judge Michael Corey in November faces a vote to keep him on the bench. A spokeswoman for the court administrator’s office has said the judge could not speak about his decision because of judicial ethics rules and that he’s also not speaking about the election.

Begich said the sentence was lenient and noted the victim was an Alaska Native. “I’m not sure if that crime would have been treated the same way if it were someone different,” he said, noting inequities in the criminal justice system.

The former U.S. senator also noted the high rates of violence against women in the state, which he said was unacceptable.

Walker called the crime and sentence “terrible,” but said current law did not make the offense a sex crime. He said he plans to propose legislation to address that and other so-called loopholes in the state’s sex offense laws.

The next legislative session begins in January.

Republican Mike Dunleavy did not attend Tuesday’s forum. Campaign spokesman Daniel McDonald said Dunleavy had meetings in Anchorage, including with public safety employees, and an event in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley on Tuesday evening.

Richard Peterson, president of the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, told the audience at Tuesday’s forum that he probably shouldn’t get political. But “if you want to represent us, you should be here to hear from us.”

Walker and Begich have criticized Dunleavy for skipping some forums and took shots at him Tuesday, referring to him by variations of “the person who won’t show up,” as Walker put it.

Dunleavy attended a candidate forum with the two in Anchorage on Monday.

Walker, Begich and Toien all said they oppose President Donald Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court, Brett Kavanaugh. Walker cited concerns with Kavanaugh’s record, as did Begich, who also questioned Kavanaugh’s temperament.

Last week, Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of sexual misconduct when the two were in high school, and Kavanaugh testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Kavanaugh forcefully denied the allegations.

Toien said he opposes Kavanaugh but “for very different reasons than is splashed all over the news media about, you know, sexual misconduct 35 years ago. I mean, that’s the latest thing, anytime you don’t like somebody getting in, but that’s not the reason that I’m not wanting him in.” He suggested Kavanaugh lacks respect for the U.S. Constitution.

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