By Laura Zuckerman
SALMON, Idaho (Reuters) - An Idaho man who admitted fatally beating a gay man by kicking him up to 30 times with his steel-toed boots pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a federal hate crime, U.S. attorneys said.
Federal prosecutors said Kelly Schneider, 23, of Nampa, attacked Steven Nelson at a remote wildlife refuge last spring because of Nelson’s sexual orientation.
“Steven Nelson was assaulted and later died because he was gay,” Wendy Olson, former U.S. Attorney for Idaho, said in a statement.
Last month, Schneider pleaded guilty to a state charge of first-degree murder in Nelson's death and is scheduled to be sentenced March 20.
Sentencing for Schneider on the federal charge is set for April 26 in Boise. Both crimes are punishable by up to life in prison.
Schneider was contacted by Nelson the evening of April 27 after Schneider posted a shirtless photograph of himself in a solicitation for sex on the website backpage.com, federal authorities said. The pair met by prearrangement the next evening, when Schneider took Nelson’s money but did not engage in a sexual act, according to U.S. prosecutors.
Before that encounter, Schneider told his friends that he was not gay and would not let anyone who was touch him, prosecutors said. Schneider arranged to go with Nelson on April 29 to an isolated area within Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge in southwest Idaho with the promise of a sexual encounter.
Instead, Schneider attacked Nelson at the wildlife area, kicking Nelson between 20 and 30 times with steel-toed boots while repeatedly using a homophobic slur, prosecutors said.
Nelson did not resist throughout the assault and died of his injuries later that day, authorities said.
(Reporting by Laura Zuckerman; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Lisa Shumaker)