A judge in Niles, Michigan, has ordered resentencing for a 19-year-old from Indiana who had to register as a sex offender in two states because he had consensual sex with a 14-year-old Michigan girl he met online who lied about her age.
The ruling in Zach Anderson’s case was released Tuesday by Berrien County District Judge Dennis Wiley, the South Bend Tribune reported.
Wiley cited comments a prosecutor made at Anderson’s original sentencing in April as the reason why the teen’s fate now will go before a different judge.
Anderson, of Elkhart, was jailed and given a five-year probation that includes a stipulation that he stay at least 1,000 feet from schools. He isn’t allowed to use computers or the Internet. Anderson also faces 25 years on Michigan’s sex-offender registry and would have to register as a sex offender in Indiana once his sentence is completed.
Various organizations, including a justice reform group, have said Anderson's punishment was too strict.
He faces a new bond hearing Friday before Wiley.
“It's not over, but it’s a step,” Anderson's father, Lester, told the Tribune after learning of Wiley's ruling.
The Associated Press sent an email seeking comment from the Berrien County prosecutor’s office late Tuesday.
In December, Zach Anderson drove north to Niles, Michigan, to meet in person with the girl, who'd told him she was 17. Her mother called police that night when she could not find her daughter. The AP is not naming the girl or her parents because she is underage. Michigan's age of consent is 16.
Anderson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and spent 75 days in jail, despite the girl's mother requesting leniency on his behalf.
Anderson’s attorney, Scott Grabel, later filed a motion seeking a new sentence to include provisions under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Training Act, known as HYTA. It applies to first-time offenders, ages 17 to 21, and would keep Anderson’s record clean if he stays out of trouble.
Grabel has said a Berrien County prosecutor violated a plea deal by opposing use of HYTA as part of the original sentence. Grabel said the prosecutor was supposed to take no position on the matter, but then recommended to Wiley the same sentencing used in two other similar cases.
Wiley pointed to those comments in throwing out the original sentence. A randomly assigned judge will resentence Anderson.