Civil Liberties

Michigan Teen Facing 25 Years as a Sex Offender Might Get a Reprieve

Judge Dennis Wiley considers re-sentencing.


Justice 4 Zach Anderson Facebook page

There might be new cause for optimism in the case of Indiana teenager Zach Anderson. Anderson, 19, pleaded guilty earlier this year after having consensual sex with a girl he met on the "Hot or Not" app who claimed to be 17 but was actually underage. In a Niles, Michigan, courtroom on Wednesday, Judge Dennis Wiley decided to consider the defense's motion to re-sentence Anderson in front of a different Berrien County judge.

Anderson's attorney, Scott Grabel, argued that Anderson was entitled to re-sentencing because the prosecution spoke out during sentencing and said Wiley should "be consistent" in his ruling, given that other, similar cases had taken place in Berrien County recently. As Reason has noted, being "consistent" for Wiley is akin to being harsh and overly punitive. Grabel is optimistic about Anderson's chances, and expects Wiley to issue an opinion in the near future.

Andersons's parents, while optimistic about today's developments, are far from happy about the whole situation. "We've been pretty nice, and we've left him alone, but we're tired of it," Zach's father Les Anderson said at a press conference after the proceeding, his frustration with Wiley obvious. "He has the chance to just do the right thing."

While Wiley could have done just that yesterday afternoon, he instead prolonged the unknown for the Anderson family, who will have to wait for Wiley's opinion on whether or not the law allows for a re-sentencing hearing in front of a different judge. Until then, they don't know what the next step is. When asked if they've explored possible legislative solutions, the Andersons were clearly disheartened by the political process. "They're more concerned with winning elections than anything else," said Les Anderson when asked about legislators' attempts to reform sex offense laws to be less harsh in circumstances like Zach's.

Outside the courthouse in Niles, a group of demonstrators held signs critical of the punitive nature of the sex offender registry. Kathie Gourlay, one of the demonstrators, said that she has long been a critic of the U.S.'s treatment of sex offenders. "Michigan is a very punitive state," Gourlay said. "The sentence lengths are too long…. How can you get back into society?"

For more on the "lifetime of punishment" Zach Anderson faces, read Lenore Skenazy in the Downtown Express.