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FRESNO, CA—United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that today United States District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill sentenced Visalia couple Terry Lee Schneider II, 28, to 21 years in prison and Nicole Jean Schneider, 30, to 15 years in prison for producing child pornography. Both defendants were also both sentenced to 15-year terms of supervised release after their release from custody.
According to court documents, the Schneiders were found to have videotaped a 3-year-old minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct in September 2005. Terry Lee Schneider II pleaded guilty on September 30, 2011 and Nicole Jean Schneider pleaded guilty on September 23, 2011. Both have been in federal custody since September 29, 2010.
U.S. Attorney Wagner said: “The production of child pornography is a crime that makes victims of some of the most vulnerable people in society—children. The sentences imposed in this case reflect the seriousness of the crime. In the last year, this office indicted a record number of cases involving child pornography, and we will continue to emphasize the prosecution of child exploitation cases.”
This case was the result of an extensive investigation by the Fresno office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Visalia Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Brian W. Enos and Grant B. Rabenn prosecuted the case.
This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood (PSC), a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, PSC mobilizes federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov or call the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California and ask to speak with the PSC coordinator.
Visalia couple sentenced for making child porn
FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A judge handed down punishment Monday for the babysitters who made a pornographic video with a three-year-old child. A chance discovery led investigators to the suspects last September -- five years after the crime. Now, Terry Lee and Nicole Schneider are both headed to prison.
One of Terry Lee Schneider's closest friends for 16 years turned him in after the pornographic video turned up in a house where the Schneiders used to stay. That man says he now lives with a fear that's affecting most everyone who knew the Schneiders.
Family photos portray Terry Lee and Nicole Schneider as the loving, church-going couple who friends admired for donating time to help the homeless. But in September 2010, longtime friends Brian and Keala Barkhurst found evidence telling a different story -- a pornographic video the Schneiders made including a 3-year-old child they were babysitting.
"It's a gut feeling seeing your friend for so many years doing this and not knowing it happened under your nose," said Brian Barkhurst.
Federal prosecutors say the tape was made five years earlier in 2005. The discovery planted doubt for the Barkhursts, about their own children's contact with the Schneiders. It's a fear they share with many members of the Visalia Nazarene Church where the Schneiders met the victim's family.
"The unanswerable questions that our family's had to go through will probably always be an issue, but at least we know they're going to be locked up," said Keala Barkhurst.
The Schneiders both pleaded guilty to producing child pornography. At their sentencing Monday, Terry Lee Schneider said almost nothing and the judge noted that he had an attitude. Nicole Schneider apologized and asked for forgiveness. As a Christian, the victim's grandfather is willing to forgive them both. But even knowing the Schneiders are going to prison hasn't healed the wounds for the victim's mother.
"For me personally, there's closure," said Loyd Smith, the victim's grandfather. "For a lot of, for my daughter, there's not closure. She has issues and I don't blame her at all."
On these federal charges, Terry Lee Schneider will serve a 21-year prison sentence. Nicole Schneider will serve 15 years. They both could still face additional criminal charges in Tulare County.
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