Friday, September 11, 2015

A New Hearing for One Doesn’t Fix the Entire Broken System. What About All the Young Men Who Came Before Zach Anderson or Those Who Will Come After? The Public Is Going to Wrongly Assume if He Got Justice in the End Then Anyone Who is Wrongly Labeled a Sex Offender Will Too, But They Don’t!


Another Elkhart family copes with having son's name on sex offender registry, September 12, 2015

Original Post:

First some past posts on Zach Anderson case:

Then the recent developments in the case:
Judge will order Zach Anderson to be removed from sex offender registry, September 11, 2015

Zach Anderson, 19-year-old sex offender, will get a new sentence, September 9, 2015

Zach Anderson, 19-Year-Old Registered Sex Offender, Has Sentence Vacated, September 8, 2015

Elkhart 19-year-old Zach Anderson's sentence thrown out in criminal sexual conduct case involving Michigan teen, September 8, 2015
Zach Anderson and his parents have been fighting what they say is an unduly harsh sentence in the case

Retired judge: Michigan sex offense registry is ‘like a cancer’, September 8, 2015
Elkhart teenager still awaits new ruling in Berrien County case

Now Lenore’s great new piece! 


Lenore Skenazy: Sex offender or boy next door? September 11, 2015

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. It will be heard anew by a different judge.

The original judge, Dennis Wiley, had sentenced Anderson to a quarter-century of pariah-dom, including no Internet, no talking to minors, no living near a school, no smartphone and no staying out past 8 p.m. 

But he grudgingly admitted that perhaps the case had been legally compromised by the prosecution. In Anderson's plea deal, the prosecutor had promised not to influence the judge's ruling. But right before sentencing, he reminded the judge that he had given two other young men harsh sentences for similar "crimes." (So similar they were almost identical. In one of them, a 19-year-old named Darian Yoder also went online, also met a girl who said she was 17 and also found out, after the fact, that she was younger than that. In his case, she was 13. Judge Wiley ruled that he was clearly a sex offender and should be labeled one for 25 years, which ended up being the same punishment Anderson got. I hope that somehow Yoder's sentence gets tossed, too.) 

You may remember that this is a judge so repulsed by the very idea of hookup culture that he originally reprimanded Anderson: "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 Wiley's behavior, considering that he had the legal authority under Michigan's youthful offender laws to give Anderson a mere slap on the wrist that would have kept him off the list of sex offenders and eventually erased his conviction. 

Instead, he chose to ruin Anderson's life. 

So here's the rub: If Wiley's sentence had stood — which it most likely would have were it not for Anderson'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 Anderson 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 his case and rules the way most of us hope — that here's a young man who had sex with a girl he thought was about his age and who herself begged the judge to drop the charges — suddenly Anderson is just one of us. A normal young man, the end. 

So, one judge can decide a human is vile and damn him to life on the registry. And another judge can decide that very same human is no menace to society at all. 

The fact that the sex offender laws are so over-broad prosecutors have the right to create such draconian plea deals and that judges have the power to ruin lives on a whim should radicalize us all. 

It is far too easy to be labeled "the worst of the worst" simply for getting caught having consensual sex (or consensually sexting) that someone else disapproves of. 

There are almost a million people in America registered as sex offenders. I shudder to think how very few deserve that label — and how very close Zach Anderson came to being one of "them."