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Piano teacher from Normal sentenced to 88 years for sexual assault

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A Normal man was sentenced to 88 years in prison on Wednesday for criminal sexual assault of a minor and possession of child pornography.

Michael D. Schneider worked as a staff member at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Bloomington before his arrest in June 2021 on the felony charges. He also spent time teaching piano lessons.

The victim, now a college student, struggled through tears to read a four-page victim impact statement. Periods of depression, suicide attempts and self-harm were all part of the aftermath of the grooming and sexual assaults that started when she was about 14, she said.

Schneider, 33, started by telling jokes “that led to talks of sex, the pornography and the assaults,” said the woman. She did not disclose the abuse that often took place during what should have been piano lessons because of fears that “my sisters would be next.”

In her statement, the victim’s mother said Schneider “used me to get to my child.” Every detail of the assaults was planned, including when Schneider hired the teen to babysit his child when he was actually home.

The mother later learned Schneider took her daughter to buy sex toys, and instructed her — if asked — to say she was his wife.

“He robbed her of a normal teenage life,” the mother said in her lengthy and emotional statement.

The mother also disclosed that her daughter first disclosed the sexual assault to Schneider‘s wife, who advised the girl not to tell anyone. But the girl, who was 18 at the time, did tell her parents who went to police.

In asking for the maximum number of years allowed under a plea agreement, state’s attorney Erika Reynolds noted Schneider gave the girl alcohol as part of the grooming process.

The prosecutor pointed to information in a sex offender evaluation that described Schneider as manipulative and unwilling to acknowledge his misconduct. The fact that the pornography depicted men engaged in sexual acts with toddlers and Schneider blamed the victim “should be enough to lock him up and throw away the key,” said Reynolds.

Defense lawyer Stephanie Wong asked for the minimum sentence on the sexual charges and consecutive probation, or six years on the child pornography charges.

“There’s no question these offenses are very disturbing,” said Wong, adding Schneider “experienced a very dark period in 2017,” but arguing the former music teacher “is absolutely capable of rehabilitation.”

In his statement to the judge, Schneider said the topless photos sent to him by the victim “triggered an addiction” to the child porn.

Schneider denied downloading illegal images on various dates, claiming one file with graphic images existed. He said he was “shocked and disgusted“ by the images. “I realized that is not who I was,” he said.

Schneider apologized to the victim, her family and friends. “I deserve to be up here,” he said.

Judge William Yoder characterized the images as “repugnant and beyond belief,” adding the harm to the victim was severe, and “her life may never be the same.”

The charges were filed after an investigation by Normal police into accusations of inappropriate relations with a juvenile victim.

"The parents deserve to feel safe when dropping their child off to be taught in any capacity, or coached in any capacity and kids deserve to feel safe. The community deserves better than this type of situation," Reynolds said after the sentencing hearing.

Schneider accepted an open plea in December, meaning the terms of a sentence were not part of the plea agreement with the state. The initial 115 counts of child porn possession were reduced to 15.

The defendant will serve about 51 years, with applicable credit for each offense. He also must register for life as a sex offender.

Edith began her career as a reporter with The DeWitt County Observer, a weekly newspaper in Clinton. From 2007 to June 2019, Edith covered crime and legal issues for The Pantagraph, a daily newspaper in Bloomington, Illinois. She previously worked as a correspondent for The Pantagraph covering courts and local government issues in central Illinois.
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