July 16th, 2018

Schnell sentenced to four years


By Shurtz, Delon on July 11, 2018.

Delon Shurtz

Lethbridge Herald

dshurtz@lethbridgeherald.com

A former Lethbridge teacher who made and distributed pornographic images, including pictures he secretly took of some of his students, has been sentenced to four years in a federal prison.

Dwayne Evan Schnell cried as he was led from a Lethbridge courtroom Tuesday, briefly glancing at his wife and parents who sat only a few feet away.

“I love you son,” his mother said as Schnell was led away by court sheriffs to begin his sentence.

Although Judge Eric Peterson acknowledged Schnell’s remorse and guilty plea to three charges, he said the offences demanded a jail sentence beyond the one-year minimum allowed by law. Defence lawyer Greg White had sought a two-year sentence followed by three years probation, while Crown prosecutor Carolyn Ayre recommended a sentence of five years.

Schnell, 38, pleaded guilty last fall to charges of distributing child pornography, making child pornography, and distributing an intimate image without the person’s consent.

Reading from an agreed statement of facts in October, Ayre said that on Dec. 27 of 2016 that Skype, a telecommunications app that specializes in providing video chat and voice calls between computers and other devices, reported to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children that someone had uploaded a child pornography image. The image appeared to be a girl between the ages of 11 and 13.

Later, Internet provider Yahoo reported that seven images, also child pornography, had been uploaded by one of its users. Both instances were investigated by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation unit, which traced the images to Schnell.

Police searched Schnell’s home in Lethbridge in February of last year and, after searching his electronic devices, discovered 1,000 images of child pornography and 600 videos, as well as numerous sexual-related online chats with apparently underage girls. Police also found on a Dropbox account belonging to Schnell 150 images – not all considered pornographic – of fully clothed students that were taken without their knowledge, and 55 images of another girl.

During a sentencing hearing last week, Schnell apologized and said he felt “horrible” for the harm he caused his victims. And following his sentencing Tuesday, White stressed his client feels terrible for the impact his actions have had on the children, his family and the community. White also insisted Schnell is a good person who got involved in a terrible activity.

“People who get involved in these types of offences and many other types of offences, it’s almost as though there’s a Doctor Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde,” White said outside the court house. “Dwayne’s a wonderful person, he has a heart of gold, and he’d give the shirt off his back to anybody. But for whatever reason he became curious and he looked at this material and then he continued to look at the material, and his family knows him as the person who has the heart of gold, and unfortunately behind that heart of gold, in quiet moments and dark moments, he was a different person.”

In addition to his prison sentence, Schnell must submit a sample of his DNA for the National DNA Databank, and he is prohibited from going to parks, playgrounds and other areas frequented by children under the age of 16, and from using the Internet or computer unless supervised by his wife, parents or mother-in-law.

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