Free-Range Kids

Teen Facing Draconian Prosecution for Sex with Another Teen Will Get Second Chance at Fair Trial

Zach Anderson's sentence vacated.

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Zach Anderson
Anderson family

This should tell you something about how meaningless and capricious the "Sex Offender" label is: Zach Anderson, the Elkhart, Indiana, 19-year-old labeled a sex offender for having consensual sex with a girl who said she was 17 (but turned out to be 14), has had his sentence "vacated." That means it's as if his case had never been tried yet. It will be heard anew by a different judge.

The original judge, Dennis Wiley, had sentenced Zach to a quarter century of pariah-dom, including no internet, no talking to minors, no living near a school, no smart phone, and no staying out past 8:00 p.m. But he grudgingly admitted that perhaps the case had been legally compromised by the prosecution. In Zach's plea deal, Assistant Prosecutor Gerald Vigansky had promised not to influence the judge's ruling. Then, right before sentencing, he reminded the judge that he had given two other young men harsh sentences for similar "crimes." (Note: these cases were extremely similar—see the story of Darian Yoder. I hope that somehow his sentence gets tossed, too.) As the South Bend Tribune reports:

In the Aug. 5 hearing, Wiley admitted Vigansky's comments in court were likely a violation and that he would rule "soon" in the case.

In the ruling released today but dated Thursday, Wiley writes Vigansky's comments did not influence his sentencing decision, which instead was based on "the Court's observation of the victim at sentencing, who appeared to be extremely young in development and maturity … It should have been apparent to a casual observer that she was clearly underage and vulnerable. The Court did not articulate these factors for the sentence imposed, so as to avoid further embarrassment to the victim and her family."

Also, because Anderson dropped the girl off down the street of her home, he knew "she was 'sneaking out' of her house," Wiley wrote. "This was anything but a 'date.'"

Remember, this is a judge who is repulsed by the very idea of hook-up culture, and who originally reprimanded Zach, saying, "You went online, to use a fisherman's expression, trolling for women, to meet and have sex with. That seems to be part of our culture now. Meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this whatsoever."

Actually, there's no excuse for Judge Wiley's behavior, considering that he had the legal authority under Michigan's youthful offender laws to give Zach a mere slap on the wrist that would have kept him off the sex offender's list and eventually erased his conviction.

Instead, he chose to ruin Zach's life.

So here's the rub: If Wiley's sentence had stood—which likely it would have, were it not for Zach's parents' activism, the South Bend Tribune's dogged reporter Virginia Black, and the subsequent glare of public scrutiny—most people who saw the dot representing Zach on a sex offender map would have considered him human scum. They'd probably have been terrified to live near him, or hire him. He would have been reviled as a child rapist.

But if another judge hears Zach's case and sees him for what he is—a young man who had sex with a girl he thought was about his age—Zach gets to have the normal life he deserves.

The fact that the sex offender laws are so over-broad, that prosecutors have the right to create such Draconian plea deals, and that judges have the power to ruin or rescue lives on a whim should radicalize us all against the consideation of teen-on-teen sex as akin to child rape.

NEXT: Jeb Bush: Brother George Blew It on "Fiscal Restraint"

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  1. You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women

    Shouldn’t that be trawling? Was the judge misquoted?

    1. (Even if that illiterate cock-up is accurate, it’s nowhere near as dumb as the rest of his sentence.)

      1. When it smells fishy online, there’s a troll involved, and where there’s a troll involved, punishment is required. It is very troubling that the prosecutors bungled this important case, once again leaving the path open to miscreants who stir up controversy with twisted words, criminal sexting and illegal trigger-speech. Just as long as long as a new trial is not granted to the “satirical” troll in New York, we will still be relatively secure, at least on the East Coast. See the documentation of America’s leading criminal satire (and criminal troll) case at:

        http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

    2. I wouldn’t put it past an Indiana judge to misunderstand the “hip young online lingo…” what with the Gigawhatsits and the Apple Mac phones and the Jigaflops.

      1. Nah, it’s a term. It’s like trawling, but using multiple lines rather than a net.

        Trust an inlander who lives in a desert to cock up fishing terms.

        1. No I think you mean “troweling,” obviously he was spreading his sexual deviance with a hand tool.

          1. He certainly lays it on thick.

          2. Hmm, perhaps he was trolloping?….yeah, that seems right.

  2. I am sexually offended by this article.

  3. he grudgingly admitted that perhaps the case had been legally compromised by the prosecution.

    IN
    CON
    FUCKING
    CEIVABLE

    1. I do not think this word means what you think it means.

  4. The judge is just jealous because he never got laid as a teenager.

    1. Or perhaps the judge is jealous because he has to pay to get laid by teenagers.

  5. Wiley writes Vigansky’s comments did not influence his sentencing decision, which instead was based on “the Court’s observation of the victim at sentencing, who appeared to be extremely young in development and maturity … It should have been apparent to a casual observer that she was clearly underage and vulnerable.

    The only way to avoid this sort of confusion is a licensing system administered by employees of the federal government.
    And, of course, a legal fucking age of 26.

    1. Becuz having sex with anyone still on their parent’s health insurance is a sin against god.

  6. I would say, the higher the age difference the higher the punishment.

    I would also say that a 19 y/o offender who has sex with a young teenager ought to be punished, but in a way that allows for rehabilitation rather than giving him a scarlet letter making him almost unemployable.

    We’re not talking about some compulsive pedophile, but about a guy who made a dumb mistake and is probably scared straight as a result. Why assume he’s inherently dangerous to the community?

    Give him probation or a stint of cooling off in prison, then let him free to put his life back on track. Maybe he shouldn’t be a high-school girls’ coach, but that doesn’t mean he should be some kind of pariah.

    1. Which age do you use, the actual age of the victim or the age is admitted to have lied to have? Also, reportedly, even the girls parents didn’t want the charges brought.

      1. Did he card her? No? Fucking criminal.

        Next thing you know there’ll be 14 yos everywhere getting fake IDs so they can get laid.

        Which poses the question…who’s liable if she uses fake ID, the boyfriend, the parents of the minor, the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America. Gentlemen!

        1. This wasn’t at a fraternity…

          1. That last bit was a quote from Animal House.

  7. “the Court’s observation of the victim at sentencing, who appeared to be extremely young in development and maturity … It should have been apparent to a casual observer that she was clearly underage and vulnerable.”

    And surely she looked the same in court as she did on that date, right?

    1. Still skeezed out by this judge, who just can’t seem to shut up about the teenager girl’s development and vulnerablity.

  8. And surely she looked the same in court as she did on that date, right?

    *blows whistle, throws flag*
    Blaming the Victim: fifteen yards and loss of down!

  9. “The photo was taken via the empty, plastic bag that was pompously floating through the air.”

  10. He obviously needs to flee to Switzerland and start making movies.
    Why the hell should he stay and see what sentence he gets next?

  11. Some might claim that a case such as this is indicative of the crying need for some sort of “overview” of the actions of both prosecutors and trial judges, an oversight that would be both automatic, required and which would review ALL circumstances in cases of conviction.

  12. 1. Get rid of the sex offender registry.

    2. If we can’t do #1, limit it to violent predatory sex offenders. Statutory rape? No. Public indecency? No. Lewd conduct? No. Indecent exposure? No. Even possessing of child porn I’d say no because they’re not predatory. Keep the list only for actual rapists, child molesters, manufacturers of child porn, etc.

    3. This young man’s case is why I support jury nullification.

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