Andrea Sneiderman, convicted Monday of nine of the 13 felony counts against her, took two calculated risks in a pair of trials following the murder of her husband, Rusty, nearly three years ago.
Both decisions could cost her plenty.
The Dunwoody widow Tuesday will receive her sentence, which might be much harsher than the one she turned down last month on the eve of her trial.
After the state dropped murder charges against her, Sneiderman rejected a plea deal that would have required her to spend no more than a year in prison. The 37-year-old mother of two — who denied any involvement in the fatal shooting of her husband in the parking lot of the Dunwoody Prep day care facility in November 2010 — opted to take her chances with a jury.
But jurors sided against her, and one of them said Monday that her other risky decision, to testify at the trial of her former supervisor, Hemy Neuman, led to their verdict and sentences that could reach 10 years each on some of the convictions. Neuman was found guilty of Rusty Sneiderman’s murder in March 2012, and during that trial prosecutors alleged that Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman had had an affair. She always denied any romantic involvement with Neuman.
“It felt like a cover-up, in my opinion,” said the only juror who agreed to speak with reporters Monday after nearly 11 hours of deliberation. Juror No. 57, who declined to give his name, said the six-man, six-woman panel kept coming back to her previous testimony.
Now, Sneiderman’s fate rests in the hands of DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gregory A. Adams, who presided over both trials.
“He’s not the toughest sentencer at the courthouse, but he’s likely to give her some time,” said Decatur attorney Keith Adams, no relation to the judge. Adams added that the veteran judge tends to give defendants harsher sentences after they’ve been convicted by a jury as opposed to when they enter a guilty plea.
Sneiderman faces a maximum sentence of five to 10 years on each of the convictions, though the four perjury charges she was convicted of will be wrapped up into one count per Georgia sentencing standards.
Prosecutors agreed that Sneiderman might not be looking at any prison time had she not testified in Neuman’s trial.
“It would’ve been a very different trial,” said former DeKalb Chief District Attorney Don Geary, the lead prosecutor during the Neuman trial. “That day and a half of testimony went according to script.”
In it, Sneiderman made a series of admissions seemingly contradicting what she had previously told investigators regarding her relationship with Neuman, her supervisor at GE Energy.
She was asked about whether Neuman had accompanied her on a business trip to Longmont, Col. She initially denied it, but evidence from workers at the hotel where the two stayed testified that not only was he there, but the two shared a room.
Sneiderman was also accused of lying about kissing Neuman while the two danced at a bar in Greenville, S.C. Testimony from the bartender who observed the pair cast doubt on Sneiderman’s claim that her supervisor’s advances were unwanted and unreciprocated.
In the end, Sneiderman’s own words were her worst enemy.
“She could have taken the Fifth at the first trial, but she still could have been tried some of these offenses for having given false statements to the police,” Atlanta criminal defense attorney B.J. Bernstein said. “But by having that testimony at the first trial on tape, the jury had no question about what she had said.”
Attorneys from both sides declined to comment Monday due to a gag order imposed by the judge. Each plans to hold a news conference following sentencing at 9 a.m. Tuesday.
“In my book, this has been a travesty, this has been an offense to our justice system,” Sneiderman friend Steffi Miller said. “The people who are going to pay the most are her parents and children.”
Sneiderman’s two young children currently live with her parents in Johns Creek, where the defendant spent nearly a year under house arrest. She was freed on a reduced bond after prosecutors dropped murder charges against her the week before her trial began.
There is currently no custody action pending in civil court, and Esther Panitch, the attorney representing Sneiderman’s in-laws in a wrongful death suit against her, withheld comment.
Jurors found in Sneiderman’s favor on two of the counts related to allegations she knew her husband had been shot before she was told by police. Many had believed that to be the strongest part of the state’s case.
Sneiderman, Miller said, seriously considered testifying on her own behalf but ultimately decided that was one risk too many.
Geary, the prosecutor in Neuman’s trial, said he didn’t think anything Sneiderman could have said at her trial “would’ve undone what she previously did and said.”
But Keith Adams questioned whether the offenses Sneiderman was convicted of were deserving of the penalty she’s likely to face.
“At the end of the day, this is a false statement and perjury case,” Adams said, adding that DeKalb District Attorney Robert James might seek a sentence more in line with the murder charges she initially faced. “To me, it’s kind of mitigating that she was essentially convicted of lying about an affair — rather than telling a lie that would presuppose she in some way knew about the murder.”
Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.
SNEIDERMAN CASE TIMELINE
Nov. 18, 2010: Rusty Sneiderman is shot multiple times and killed after taking his son to class at Dunwoody Prep day care.
Jan. 4, 2011: Hemy Neuman, who supervised Rusty Sneiderman’s wife at GE Energy, is arrested and charged with murder after investigators discovered that the day before the shooting he rented a silver minivan that matched one seen at Dunwoody Prep.
Feb. 21, 2012: Opening statements are heard in the trial of Neuman, who pleads not guilty by reason of insanity.
Feb. 24, 2012: The judge bans Andrea Sneiderman from the courtroom for actions that were deemed as intimidating to witnesses.
March 15, 2012: After deliberating nearly eight hours over three days, the jury finds Neuman guilty but mentally ill on the count of murder, and guilty on the count of using a firearm during the commission of a felony. The judge sentences Neuman to life in prison without parole on the murder count, and five years in prison on the firearms charge.
May 18, 2012: Steve Sneiderman, Rusty Sneiderman’s brother, files a wrongful death lawsuit against his sister-in-law, alleging she conspired to kill her husband.
June 18, 2012: Andrea Sneiderman files a defamation suit against Steve Sneiderman along with a wrongful death suit against Neuman.
Aug. 2, 2012: A DeKalb County grand jury issues an eight-count indictment charging Andrea Sneiderman with malice murder, attempted murder, racketeering, insurance fraud and two counts each of perjury and false statements. The same morning, she is arrested in Putnam County.
Feb. 18: Prosecutors reindict Sneiderman, dropping conspiracy charges but implicating her in the death of her husband as a “party to the crime.”
May 21: Sneiderman pleads not guilty to a third indictment, revised after the defense raises questions about the wording of the charges.
July 23: Prosecutors inform the defense, according to people with direct knowledge of the case, that they will be dropping the three most serious charges against Sneiderman: felony murder, malice murder and aggravated assault. She still faced 13 charges, including: seven perjury counts, four counts of making false statements, one count of hindering the apprehension of a criminal, one count of concealment of material fact. Each count carries a maximum sentence ranging from five to 10 years in prison.
Aug. 6: The trial begins.
Monday: The jury finds Sneiderman guilty of nine of the 13 counts. Sentencing is scheduled for Tuesday.
What’s next for Andrea Sneiderman
- Andrea Sneiderman faces sentencing Tuesday on nine felony counts. Each of the counts carries a maximum sentence ranging from five to 10 years.
- A wrongful-death suit that Sneiderman’s brother-in-law filed against her is also still pending.
Hindering Apprehension of Criminal by concealing her relationship with Neuman
Concealment of material facts by misleading investigators as to the nature of that relationship
False statements, claiming she never suspected Neuman prior to Dec. 28
Perjury, for saying she didn’t know her husband had been shot prior to being informed by an emergency room doctor
False statements, telling a police officer she did not know what had happened to her husband upon arrival at Dunwoody Prep
Perjury, for telling investigators she was not romantically involved with Neuman
Perjury, for saying Hemy’s advances were not reciprocated
False statements, for claiming she told Neuman to end his pursuit of her
Perjury, for lying when asked whether she had shared a room with Neuman during a business trip to Longmont, Col.
False statements, for claiming she was unaware Neuman was in Longmont
Perjury, for claiming Neuman traveled to Longmont on business
Perjury, for insisting she did not kiss Neuman while at a Greenville, S.C., bar
Perjury, for not telling police immediately about her suspicions that Neuman was her husband’s killer due to her mother’s safety concerns