19 Year Old Zach Anderson of Indiana Who was Convicted in Michigan and Mandated to Register as a Sex Offender for the Next 25 Years has Become the "Poster Child" of Why the Sex Offender Laws and Public Registries in the U.S. Need Serious Reform
CBS This Morning Video: Indiana
family fights to overturn teen sex offender ruling, August 5, 2015
Zach Anderson, 19, goes before a
judge Wednesday, fighting to save his future. He was convicted in April of
having consensual sex with a 14-year-old girl. But she told him she was 17.
Despite that admission, the judge put Anderson
on the sex offender's registry until April 2040. CBS News legal expert Rikki
Klieman, a former sex crimes prosecutor, joins “CBS This Morning” to discuss
previously posted articles and interviews with Zach’s parents Less and Amanda including
a recent ABC Nightline interview that followed Zach’s released from jail.
Zach is the
one that met a girl online who claimed to be 17 years old, they had consensual
sex and then he finds out she was really 14 years old after the fact. For the
next 25 years Zach will be a Registered Sex Offender, he can not live at his
parents home because of residency restrictions and he can not pursue his
college education for a degree in Computer Programming/Design because he’s
banned from having Internet access.
also been 2 radio talk shows (that I posted) on Sex Offender Registries and the
need for reform, ALL because Zach’s case has people talking and questioning how
this could happen.
there are two more articles on Zach’s story (see
below) that I wanted to be sure to post.
I am so
pleased that not only his parents have been outspoken about the problems with Sex
Offender Registries but now Zach is advocating too. So many times the parents
or the spouse of a Registrant speak up and lobby for change but the Registrant
can not bring themselves to stand up in front of lawmakers and reporters to
advocate not just for themselves but for others. It’s take serious courage to
advocate for Sex Offender Reform and the Andersons
are doing a great job!
main goal is to get Zach’s conviction overturned and removed from the Sex
Offender Registry but this experience has opened their eyes to the current
problems within our justice system, legislative system and the punishment of
naming and shaming.
or someone you know or love is directly affected by this madness you have no
idea how bad it is.
families and Registrants across America
did what the Andersons
have been doing we would see positive reform occurring in every state.
don’t speak up and speak out then the status quo remains the same. Broken,
cruel and punitive.
the VERY worst thing ever can turn into a positive mission, that’s how I became an
advocate on this polarizing platform.
need time to sit on the “pity-pot” but are you going to spend the rest of your
life on it or are you going to take your new knowledge and experience and do
something positive with it?
dating app hookup landed a teen on the sex offender registry, August 4,
Zach Anderson is 19 and a typical
teenager. He's into computers and wants to build a career around his love for
But those plans and any semblance
of a normal life are for now out the window. Under court order, he can't access
the Internet, go to a mall or linger near a school or playground. His parents
say because he has a 15-year-old brother, he can't even live at home any
Why? He's been placed on the sex
offender registry after a dating app hookup.
He was at his home in Elkhart, Indiana, when he
met the girl, who lived across the state line in nearby southern Michigan.
The girl told Zach she was 17, but
she lied. She was only 14, and by having sex with her, Zach was committing a
crime. He was arrested and convicted.
He was given a 90-day jail
sentence, five years probation and placed on both Indiana
sex offender registry for the next 25 years. A colossal mistake, say his
"It's a blatant lie,"
his father, Lester Anderson says. Amanda Anderson, his mother, says "it
doesn't even fit our lifestyle; it doesn't fit how we raised our kids."
Zach says his parents had always told him not to have sex before marriage.
'I want to be in
trouble and not you'
Both the girl's mother and the
girl herself appeared in court, to say they didn't believe Zach belonged on the
sex offender registry. The girl admitted lying and outside of court, she handed
family a letter. She wrote in part, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you my age.
It kills me every day, knowing you are going through hell and I'm not. I want
to be in trouble and not you."
But even if the sex was consensual
and even if the girl did lie about her age, it is not a defense under current
sex offender laws.
In fact, Judge Dennis Wiley, who
sentenced Zach, said he was angry that Zach had used the Internet to meet a
"That seems to be part of our
culture now," he said, according to a transcript. "Meet, have sex,
hook up, sayonara. Totally inappropriate behavior. There is no excuse for this
A former judge in a nearby town
says the sex offender registry has to be changed. Especially for cases like
"If we caught every teenager
that violated our current law," says former Judge William Buhl, "we'd
lock up 30 or 40 percent of the high school. We're kidding ourselves."
Everyone on the same
Buhl says the problem is that the
registry is a one-size-fits-all list that treats everyone as if they pose the
same threat, whether they are a predatory child molester or a teen who had sex
with his girlfriend.
In a highly critical study of the
sex offender registry in 2013, Human Rights Watch says there is "no
evidence" that placing teens on the sex offender registries make
Even convicted sex offenders, the
very people the registry was set up to monitor, say their type of criminal
behavior and mindset is vastly different from some of these teens.
Ted Rodarm, who served prison time
for molestation, says teens such as Zach don't belong on the same registry as
sex offenders like him. Rodarm, who is now a part of a ministry for sex
offenders, adds "the registry has become so diluted that you can't
identify the truly dangerous, and that in itself is dangerous."
Buhl, who says he has presided
over dozens of sex offender cases, agrees that the states are wasting resources
on people who are unlikely to re-offend. He says one solution would be to have
a risk assessment registry, in which offenders are assessed in terms of their
threat to society. But he believes change is unlikely, because few lawmakers
would be willing to back a provision that lessens the severity of sex crime
As for Zach, he's awaiting another
court hearing in which his attorney will try to mitigate his sentence.
There's no telling, of course,
whether that will be successful.
2-Teen out of
jail, but stays on sex offender registry, August 4, 2015
Locked up for 73 days, teen Zach
Anderson walked out of the BerrienCounty Jail last month
and received an ominous message from his probation officer: The tough part was
His probation imposed 61
restrictions. No Internet access for five years. An 8 p.m. curfew. He can’t go
to restaurants that serve alcohol.
Worst of all, he’s on the Indiana
Sex and Violent Offender Registry for 25 years, a scarlet letter that will make
it hard for the 19-year-old to find a job or a place to live.
His crime was having sex with an
Anderson of Elkhart drove just across the
Indiana-Michigan border and hooked up with a 14-year-old Niles girl who he says told him she was 17.
The age of consent in Michigan
“It’s crazy,” said Anderson. “They make me
out to be a monster.”
As a first-time offender younger
than 21, he was eligible for a program that would have softened the punishment.
But a judge rejected it.
Anderson will try to
withdraw his guilty plea Wednesday in Berrien County District Court.
His quest has drawn support from
around the country, including the mother of the girl, and raised questions
about whether sex registries should be focused more on protecting victims than
An online petition asking the
judge to reconsider has received 156,000 signatures. Several newspapers have
written editorials supporting Anderson.
A national justice reform group is rallying behind him.
Reform Sex Offender Laws, based in
said sex registries have become bloated with teens like Anderson, and fail to distinguish between
them and bigger threats, such as pedophiles.
Michigan has the fourth-highest number of people on its registry, 43,000,
behind California, Texas
and Florida, according to the NationalCenter for Missing and Exploited Kids.
Each state can set its own rules for who qualifies for the registry.
“This case is just the tip of the
iceberg,” said Bill Dobbs, a member of the reform group. “This 21st century
scarlet letter needs more than fixing. It needs to be abolished.”
But a lawmaker who has helped
write some of Michigan’s sex registry laws has
little sympathy for Anderson.
State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge,
was old enough to know better.
“A 19-year-old knows you have to
be careful,” he said.
Before everything turned upside
led a tranquil life.
Working as an auto shop
technician, he lived with his parents along an inlet of the St.
Joseph River. The second oldest of four boys, he liked to play
computer games and make skateboarding videos.
Like many teen boys, he met girls
through dating websites and apps like Hot or Not.
In December, he was flirting with
the Niles girl
on Hot or Not when he asked how old she was, he said in a recent interview. She
said 17, he said.
After encouraging her to take
intimate photos of herself, he suggested they get together.
Two days after they met online, Anderson drove 20 miles
and picked the girl up around the corner from her home, he said.
“On the night it happened, I had a
gut feeling that I shouldn’t be doing this,” he later wrote in a letter of
apology to the girl. “If I would have trusted my conscience, none of this would
The teens bought condoms at Lucky
7 Food Mart and drove down a gravel road to a small, secluded playground at NilesWestsideSeventh-dayAdventistChurch. They were six
blocks from the the girl’s home.
Meanwhile, the girl’s mother was
in a panic. The Detroit
News is not naming the girl or her mother because the child is a minor.
Her daughter had been gone for
several hours and missed her dinnertime dosage of medicine for epilepsy, the
The girl, who didn’t have a phone,
had told her older sister she was meeting Anderson,
the mother said. The family tried to reach him through Skype but didn’t get a
She called 911. Shortly after a
sheriff’s deputy arrived, so did her daughter.
And the whole saga nearly ended
But the deputy had spotted Anderson’s user name,
“Zach Guy,” on the girl’s computer, piquing his interest, her mother said.
Sheriff’s Office had been looking into a number of cases where someone named
Zach was contacting underage girls.
Two deputies returned to the home
later that night and pressed the girl for details of what happened, her mother
A subsequent investigation found Anderson had nothing to
do with the other cases.
But his dalliance with the girl
led to a misdemeanor charge of criminal sexual conduct.
The girl’s mother never wanted Anderson arrested.
She tearfully beseeched
authorities to drop the charge, she said. She blamed her daughter for the
tryst, saying she was acting out because of her epilepsy.
When Anderson was sentenced, she asked the judge
to be lenient, citing her daughter’s mental and physical development as factors
in the incident.
Under Michigan law, a person is placed on the sex
offender registry for consensual teen sex if the age difference is more than
But the state Holmes Youthful
Trainee Act allows first-time offenders to avoid the registry and have their
convictions erased after serving probation.
During the sentencing, Anderson’s attorney said
his client was a victim of the culture, that dating websites and apps made it
difficult to determine the age of the person you’re going to meet.
Berrien County District Judge
Dennis Wiley seized upon the same culture in doling out his punishment.
“You went online, to use a
fisherman’s expression, trolling for women to meet and have sex with,” he told Anderson. “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.”
Wiley, 67, said meeting someone
online is dangerous because it’s easy for bad people to hide their identities.
He sentenced Anderson
to three months in jail, five years of probation and 25 years on the Michigan Sex Offender Registry, which, because of his
residence, was transferred to the Indiana
Anderson is luckier than
most people on the sex offender registry.
After leaving jail on July 9, Anderson began working at
his father’s print shop.
He couldn’t return home because
his parents live within 1,000 feet of a public boat launch, which is prohibited
by the registry.
But his parents bought a $51,000
house a block behind the shop, named Sign of the Times.
The Andersons have paid $31,000 so far in lawyer
fees, court expenses and a down payment on the home.
“He has a mountain to climb,” said
father, Les. “He’s free, but he’s not really free.”
If Zach wants to live or work
somewhere else, his options are limited. He can’t live or work within 1,000
feet of a school, and will have to overcome the stigma of being on the registry
to convince an employer or landlord to accept him.
Even if he found another job or
home, he could lose them if others learn about his past and mount pressure to
get rid of him.
“It affects everything you do,” he
The public registry gives his
conviction, name, photo, physical description and addresses of his home and
What it doesn’t give are details
of the crime. Little distinguishes him from pedophiles on the list.
It didn’t take long for his new
reality to sink in.
Three days after Zach left jail,
Les Anderson could tell something was bothering his son. When he asked what was
wrong, Zach began to cry.
“I don’t know who I can talk to,”
he told his dad. “I don’t know whose hands I can shake.”
To his supporters, Anderson — a
pariah at 19 — has traded one jail for another