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Story of teen's sex-offense sentence spreads

Story of teen's sex-offense sentence spreads

Postby Happy Mom » Mon Jun 22, 2015 8:00 am

Story of teen's sex-offense sentence spreads
As attorney seeks to undo plea, Elkhart man's story finds national audience


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Story of teen's sex-offense sentence spreads
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Zachery Anderson
Posted: Monday, June 22, 2015 6:00 am | Updated: 7:23 am, Mon Jun 22, 2015.
By Virginia Black South Bend Tribune

As 19-year-old Zachery Anderson sits in a jail cell in St. Joseph and frets about the life that awaits him when he leaves, the story about his fate after he had sex with a girl who lied about her age is spreading around the country.
We published an article about Anderson’s case May 17, and that inspired nearly every other local news outlet to follow with reports of their own. But in the last week, accounts of the young man’s story have appeared on several Internet sites, sparking more outrage about Berrien County District Court Judge Dennis Wiley’s unduly harsh sentence: jail time; five years on probation; a ban on being around young people or anyone with a computer or smart phone; the abandoning of his computer science major at a community college; and 25 years on Michigan’s sex offender registry.
His family has scrambled to find a house in Elkhart for their son to live in, by himself, that meets restrictive sex offender regulations. They are raising awareness and money through the Facebook page “Justice 4 Zach Anderson, Elkhart.”
They are even selling T-shirts to mitigate the $30,000 or so they have already spent trying to re-balance the scales of justice for a young man who had a clean record and who says he regrets his actions.
All for a sexual indiscretion in December with a 14-year-old who lied about her age and who told the judge she did not want to see Zach punished for something she considered her fault.
Meanwhile, the Lansing attorney hired by Zach’s parents, Lester and Amanda Anderson, filed a motion last week to withdraw Zach’s plea agreement. Scott Grabel argues in the motion that because the prosecutor spoke in court against invoking a Michigan law that would grant leniency to the first-time offender, he violated the plea agreement that called for him to not oppose the more lenient sentencing.
Both defense attorneys involved in this case say they have never seen a more deserving candidate for that leniency.
Life-changing decisions
Zach Anderson, who was living with his parents in Elkhart, first met the 14-year-old Niles girl on an 18-and-older section of the dating website Hot or Not. They agreed in December to meet, so Anderson picked the girl up from her home and drove to a playground nearby, where they had sex.
The girl later admitted to telling Zach she was 17. In Indiana and at least 12 other states, a victim lying about her age is a defense against a statutory rape claim. Not so in Michigan.
To add insanity to injury, the Andersons were told by an Indiana probation officer that when Zach returns, he will likely be forced to register on Indiana’s sex offender registry for life. For a crime for which he likely would not have been convicted in Indiana.
Both the girl and her mother pleaded with the prosecutor and Judge Wiley not to punish Zach. The mother later told me, in tears, that she and her daughter are greatly troubled by Zach not only being charged with a crime, but sentenced without mercy.
Michigan has a law whose intent is just that: to show mercy on certain offenders older than 17 but younger than 21, recognizing that young people deserve a chance to recover from a mistake. The Holmes Youthful Trainee Act required that Zach plead guilty to the sex offense and, had the judge agreed to take it into account, likely would have resulted in an expungeable conviction that also avoided a listing on the sex offender registry.
Instead, apparently driven by a shared sense of outrage that young people would meet online and agree to have sex, the pre-sentence investigator, the assistant prosecutor and the judge were all disinclined toward mercy — not only for Zach, but also referring in Zach’s sentencing to two other young men caught in very similar scenarios in Berrien County earlier in the year.
“You went online, to use a fisherman’s expression, trolling for women to meet and have sex with,” Wiley lectured Zach. “That seems to be part of our culture now: meet, hook up, have sex, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior.”
Will judge rethink his decision?
Those words have been oft-quoted since I first reported them, including in a blog on reason.com written by Lenore Skenazy, the “World’s Worst Mom” on the Discovery channel.
“Judge Wiley should realize that just because you met someone online does not mean you are a depraved fiend who deserves 25 years on the Sex Offender Registry,” Skenazy wrote, adding she hopes Michigan changes its law to include as a defense in such crimes that a victim lied about their age.
Blogs and news sites in Florida, Texas and even the United Kingdom have reported on Zach’s fate. The Associated Press distributed a short article Saturday describing the case, which has quickly been picked up by newspapers on both coasts. Last week, a New York Times reporter interviewed Lester Anderson for an as-yet unpublished article.
Many of the sites are pointing out Wiley was censured last year for instituting contempt proceedings against a woman after overhearing court clerks complain that she had used the F-word in interactions with them. The woman, LaRue Ford, was jailed for 10 days during the Christmas season in December 2012 when she could not make bail.
Wiley consented to the public censure, the Michigan Supreme Court said in issuing its announcement; he later issued his own news release apologizing to Michigan citizens and judicial colleagues for his actions, but he did not apologize to Ford.
Justice shouldn’t be meted out according to public sentiment. But when a judge so clearly relies on his own outrage for sentencing, refusing any leniency and rehabilitation the law might prescribe, maybe a growing swell of opinion should make a difference.
Wiley has a chance to redeem himself in this case. Judges can make mistakes in judgment, even if they think they’re following the letter of the law.
Grabel’s motion to withdraw the plea, in fact, refers to the possibility of the case being heard before “a different judge” going forward.
Perhaps that would be the best solution of all.
Virginia Black: 574-235-6321
vblack@sbtinfo.com

http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/lo ... cc512.html
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Re: Story of teen's sex-offense sentence spreads

Postby st michael jr » Mon Jun 22, 2015 9:43 am

This story sounds like a judge who is power hungry
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