Bradley Schnickel, the former Minneapolis police officer who used the Internet to lure adolescent girls into sexual encounters, was sentenced Monday to 30 months in prison, minus 197 days for time already served. With good behavior, his remaining prison time could be reduced to less than 14 months.
Many in the packed Anoka County courtroom that included victims and their families were stunned when Judge James A. Cunningham sentenced Schnickel, 33, to less than one-fourth of the nearly 12-year sentence that prosecutors sought. Authorities had said there were 18 known victims, including two girls with whom Schnickel had sex, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old.
"They're frustrated that drug dealers, drunk drivers, nearly any kind of case with a single victim seems to get a greater sentence," prosecutor Paul Young said after meeting with victims and their families.
One victim, who was 13 when she met Schnickel, has threatened suicide, been hospitalized for mental health issues four times, and has needed more than $100,000 for treatment, her parents said in an impact statement read by Young. Another, who was 14 when she encountered Schnickel, has lost her trust in people, Young read.
"I'm scared to death that this man will come after me and my family again," another wrote.
After listening to the impact statements, Schnickel told the court it was a "blessing" that he was caught, that he has "deep remorse for those I affected."
"I wish I could take back what was done," he said. "I let so many people down. I'm truly sorry."
After hearing Schnickel and his wife, Jennifer, ask for forgiveness, the judge reminded him that "as a sworn police officer, Mr. Schnickel, you have the duty to protect the women you victimize."
But Cunningham said he was convinced that Schnickel, who has been in counseling for more than a year, demonstrated that he is amenable to treatment.
The judge didn't agree with Jennifer Schnickel's plea to keep her husband out of prison and sentence him to the workhouse, allowing him to provide for a family that includes two young daughters, who will turn 4 and 2 in July. But he stressed the importance of rehabilitation over the 142-month sentence that prosecutors had discussed since February, when Schnickel pleaded guilty to three counts of criminal or attempted criminal sexual conduct and two counts of electronic solicitation of a minor between 2010 and 2013.
He had previously been sentenced in Hennepin County to a year in the workhouse after pleading guilty last summer to sending nude photos of himself to two teenage girls.
In addition to five concurrent 30-month sentences, the judge ordered a lifetime of conditional release.
Schnickel, wearing a gray suit, showed little emotion before making his statement. He listened to prosecutor Young, sitting 3 feet away, describe him as "so good a liar and deceitful" that he kept "years of abusing children from his wife and as a police officer."
Anoka County authorities said that in Facebook and Skype conversations, Schnickel identified himself to middle- and high-school girls as "Brady Schmidt." He told girls that they were "cute and sexy" or "hot," and that he was attracted to girls as young as 12.
Schnickel was arrested in Anoka County in February of last year. He was fired from the Minneapolis police force at that time. Two months later, he was charged in Hennepin County.