UPDATE: Images ‘repugnant beyond belief’ land former McLean County piano teacher more than 80 years in prison
(25 News Now) - Following hours of emotional impact statements, a former McLean County piano teacher will now face 88 years in prison for possession of child porn as well as the criminal sexual assault of a minor.
Judge William Yoder called the more than 100 videos and images of child porn found on a thumb drive in Michael Schneider’s home “repugnant beyond belief.” Illinois law dictates each individual piece of porn carries its own criminal charge. Schneider faced 130 charges in total, he pleaded guilty to 15. He was sentenced to four years per charge, totaling 60 years.
He also pleaded guilty to two counts of criminal sexual assault and creating child pornography in connection to the sexual assault. The judge sentenced him to ten years per criminal sexual assault charge, plus eight years for the creation of child pornography.
State’s Attorney Erika Reynolds said she was happy with the sentencing Wednesday. She’s been a part of the case since 2021 before she became State’s Attorney.
“When someone claims that no one was hurt when you’re accused of sexually assaulting somebody and you’re accused of downloading child pornography - that defies logic,” she said. “It denies the trauma that is imposed on these victims.”
The courtroom was full of both supporters of the victims and Schneider.
Authorities confirmed Schnieder, 35, was also a choir director at Bloomington’s St. John’s Lutheran Church. Several of the supporters in attendance bore the ashy cross marking the first day of Lent. Forty individuals wrote letters to Yoder in support of Schneider, asking for a lighter sentence or the possibility of parole.
Schneider has been in jail on a $2 million bond since his arrest in July of 2021. He will receive credit for the year and a half he’s spent in jail.
He will have to serve at least 51 years before the possibility of parole. Schneider may be 86 years old at that time. The judge ordered mandatory supervised release for at least three years or for the rest of his life. He will also have to register as a sex offender. Schneider must also pay $17,075 in fines for his charges.
On Dec. 8, Schneider pleaded guilty to 18 of those counts, sparing the victim from testifying at a trial. Schneider admitted to molesting the teen and having her pose for pornographic pictures.
Both the victim and her parents read their impact statements before Judge Yoder.
“I thought he was a friend of the family,” the mother read between tears. “We trusted him and believed him to be a good person.”
The mother described the grooming behavior Schneider used on her daughter that she learned of only after the fact. She described him taking her to buy lingerie and sex toys for the girl between 13 and 17 years old. The daughter would visit his home for music lessons and to babysit his children.
“I dropped her off at a house of horrors,” the mother said.
The victim of the criminal sexual assault also provided an impact statement to the judge.
The victim said Schneider took her teen years from her, saying the trauma of his continued assault contributed to falling grades, worsening mental health, and subsequent failed attempts to take her own life.
The victim’s mother described her as a lover of music. Now, however, the victim said she cannot look at her sheet music without reliving her experience.
“You are coerced, you are manipulated,” she said of the grooming experience. Now, she feels “so much guilt and regret.”
Schneider defended himself before the judge moments before the sentence was passed down. He said the relationship between him and the minor started as a mutual agreement to buy her alcohol in exchange for nude pictures. Those pictures started an interest and addiction to child porn, according to Schneider.
Schneider and his defense attorney Stephanie Wong maintained throughout the hearing this was an isolated incident. Wong described it as a “dark period” of his life, something that had never happened before and had not happened since.
Schneider said this situation will “forever define his life.” He claimed he did not know what was in the large file of child porn when he downloaded it and was disgusted by its contents. “I deserve to be up here.”
Metadata from the downloaded child porn shows it pre-dated the pictures and sexual assaults that occurred between May and September of 2017.
Schneider and his attorney have 30 days to file an appeal. If they chose to do so, Schneider would have to rescind his guilty plea and send the case to trial.
Wong did file a motion to receive court transcript to start the appeal process, it’s not clear yet if one will be filed.
Copyright 2023 WEEK. All rights reserved.