Hemy Neuman’s lawyers filed notice Friday their client will plead not guilty by reason of insanity, acknowledging he in fact shot and killed Rusty Sneiderman outside a Dunwoody day care facility last November.
“The issue is not what happened, but why it happened,” said attorney Doug Peters in an interview with the AJC. “The facts of this case are not in dispute.”
Peters said, because of Neuman’s mental illness, he was unable to differentiate between right and wrong at the time of the shooting.
“We are relieved that Mr. Neuman has admitted that he killed Rusty Sneiderman,” said Seth Kirschenbaum, the attorney representing the vicitm’s widow, Andrea Sneiderman. “This was a cold-blooded, pre-meditated murder, however. Hopefully, the prosecution is prepared to rebut his insanity defense. “
According to law enforcement, the shooting occurred because of “an extramarital affair between the defendant and Andrea Sneiderman,” it was revealed in an affidavit contained within a search warrant filed this week. Prosecutors have only inferred, in previous court documents, an illicit relationship between Neuman and Sneiderman, former co-workers at GE Energy.
In the latest filing, the DeKalb County district attorney charges evidence is being concealed that, on Dec. 28, more than a month after shooting Sneiderman, Neuman sent the dead man’s wife a “gift” from iTunes — the romantic ballad “Just the Way You Are” by Bruno Mars.
“At the time she received the email, Andrea Sneiderman was in Florida with her parents preparing to observe the 10th anniversary of her wedding at the synagogue where she and Rusty had been married,” Kirschenbaum said. “This was an unsolicited email and she did not respond to it nor did she open the attachment.”
Prosecutors declined comment on the latest developments. They filed an emergency motion Friday to have Neuman examined by their own experts, a standard response in cases like this.
The insanity plea takes some pressure off the state, which no longer has to substantiate that Neuman killed Sneiderman.
The burden of proof now switches to the defense to prove their client was indeed insane, a challenge acknowledged by Neuman’s attorneys. If the defense is successful, Neuman would become a ward of the state mental health system.
The jury could also find him guilty but mentally ill, in which case Neuman would become an inmate within the Georgia Department of Corrections, where he would receive treatment for his sickness.
Neuman’s behavior was often “odd or out of character … before, during and after” the shooting, said defense attorney Bob Rubin.
In one of the case’s more curious turns, Neuman called his estranged wife the day of the shooting to tell her he needed to retrieve Andrea Sneiderman’s computer from their GE office. Ariela Neuman was already suspicious the two were having an affair.
Her attorney, Esther Panitch, said Neuman was “devastated” to learn her husband acknowledged pulling the trigger.
“To hear it from the defense, brought it all home,” said Panitch, who has maintained for months that Neuman and Andrea Sneiderman were lovers.
Her client saw no evidence of mental illness in Neuman, Panitch told the AJC.
“The inability to fight the overwhelming desire to be with your lover is not a legal reason for insanity,”she said.
Peters said Neuman has been evaluated by “the best” mental health professionals.
“We have extensive and substantial evidence to prove his innocence [by reason of insanity],” he said. Rubin added the defense will rely on experts along with “lay witnesses” who knew their client well.
Neuman’s trial is scheduled to begin Oct. 17. The defense said they are ready to proceed on that date, but it’s yet unknown whether the prosecution will seek a delay.
This article by Christian Boone was originally published in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.