A Nampa man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal hate crime charge in connection with the beating that ultimately killed a gay man last year.
Police say Kelly Schneider posed as a male escort to lure Steven Nelson to Lake Lowell where Schneider and three other men beat Nelson and robbed him. Nelson later died at the hospital of cardiac arrest.
A federal grand jury indicted Schneider earlier this month with willful assault based on sexual orientation, which is in violation of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said, under that act, her office has to prove that Schneider committed a crime directed at a gay man because of his sexual orientation. Olson said she cannot discuss the details of the evidence and how her office came to believe this is a hate crime because the case is still open.
“These are just charges. Mr. Schneider’s rights will be protected and that he is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt,” Olson said. “But I think the significance of bringing prosecution under the Shepard-Byrd Act…recognizes that everyone is protected by our civil rights statutes that people cannot and should not be targets of violence simply because who they love and how they love.”
Schneider was charged in state court with first-degree murder. He pleaded guilty to that charge Monday.