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.”