August 19, 2013

Georgia jury finds Sneiderman guilty of 9 counts

By KATE BRUMBACK, Associated Press

DECATUR — A Georgia jury found Andrea Sneiderman guilty of nine counts in her trial on charges including false statements and perjury Monday afternoon.

Sneiderman’s husband, Rusty Sneiderman, was shot in November 2010 outside a suburban Atlanta preschool. Her former boss Hemy Neuman was convicted in March 2012 but was found mentally ill.

Prosecutors accused Sneiderman of lying to police investigating her husband’s death and lying under oath during Neuman’s trial. The 13-count indictment included charges of making false statements, hindering an investigation and perjury.

Jurors got the case after closing arguments Thursday and deliberated all day Friday before leaving without a verdict. They returned for additional deliberations Monday and delivered the verdict after more than three hours.

Sneiderman was found guilty of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, concealment of material facts, three counts of giving false statements and four counts of perjury. She was found not guilty of three counts of perjury and one count of giving a false statement.

Prosecutors maintained that Andrea Sneiderman was having a romantic relationship with Neuman and that she repeatedly lied about the relationship, which they said hindered the investigation into her husband’s death. Sneiderman and her defense team repeatedly denied that there was a romantic relationship and said that police bungled the investigation by not focusing on Neuman even after she mentioned him to them.

Sneiderman’s defense has said prosecutors had a weak case, but were desperate to convict her of something.

Judge Gregory Adams set Sneiderman’s sentencing for 9 a.m. Tuesday and said she had 30 days to file her notice of intent to appeal. Sneiderman was taken into custody shortly afterward and was led from the courtroom as her tearful relatives looked on.  

Lawyers on both sides declined to comment after Monday’s verdict, citing a gag order in the case. Both sides said they’d comment after Sneiderman’s sentencing.

Perjury carries a maximum sentence in Georgia of 10 years in prison, while the other charges carry a maximum of five years each. There is no mandatory minimum. The judge has broad discretion and can also choose to have the sentences run consecutively or concurrently.

Throughout the trial, the prosecution played and replayed video and audio clips of Sneiderman’s interviews with police during the investigation and her testimony during Neuman’s trial. They contrasted that with witness testimony and documents that they said proved she had lied to police and the court.

The defense called a string of character witnesses who testified that Andrea and Rusty Sneiderman had a happy and loving relationship. They also called some experts to refute some of the documents and evidence presented by the prosecution.

Jurors reviewed all the evidence, including emails and phone logs, and concluded that Sneiderman and Neuman were having some sort of a romantic relationship and that she lied about it, said one juror who spoke to reporters after the verdict but identified himself only as Juror No. 57.

“Once you actually got to looking at the info and what she said in the Hemy Neuman trial, she basically pretty much committed perjury,” he said.

Andrea Sneiderman showed little emotion as the verdict was read. Her mother sobbed outside the courtroom afterward and left the courthouse in tears.

Sneiderman, 37, of Decatur, was arrested last August after prosecutors accused her of helping to orchestrate the killing of her husband. She spent much of the last year under house arrest. Lawyers for both sides had for months been planning for a trial on one count each of malice murder, felony murder and aggravated assault, as well as one count each of hindering the apprehension of a criminal and concealment of material facts, four counts of making false statements and seven counts of perjury.

But on July 26 — on the eve of jury selection — DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James took the unusual step of asking the judge to dismiss the murder and aggravated assault charges. James cited his recent review of evidence the defense turned over as part of pre-trial discovery as the reason for dropping the charges.   

Thomas Clegg, one of Sneiderman’s lead attorneys, balked at the explanation at the time. “I believe they have known all along that they didn’t have a murder case,” he said in open court. The judge granted James’ request before the start of jury selection and released Sneiderman from house arrest.