A 20-year-old Indiana man who spent 75 days in jail after pleading guilty to a misdemeanor for having consensual sex with a 14-year-old Michigan girl who lied about her age was resentenced Monday to two years of probation after telling the judge he has learned his lesson.
“This is not the way I feel about relationships at all and I realize it was a terrible mistake. I definitely respect the actual relationship,” said Zach Anderson of Elkhart, Indiana. “Moving forward on this, my outlook is going to be totally different when it comes to relationships and meeting people.”
Berrien County Judge Angela Pasula resentenced Anderson under Michigan’s Holmes Youthful Training Act, which allows first-time offenders ages 17 to 21 to have criminal convictions expunged if certain conditions are met. Among those conditions: Anderson can’t use a computer or any device capable of connecting with the Internet except for at school, he can’t have unaccompanied contact with anyone under age 17 other than a sibling, he can’t drink or use drugs or pornography. He also can’t have contact with the girl, who had told him when they met online that she was 17.
Pasula said the sentence in no way condones what Anderson did. She said she noted in reviewing a Skype conversation between Anderson and the girl the immaturity displayed and it underscores why this encounter should never have occurred.
“It was all about instant gratification without regard for any consequences,” she said. “You went out looking for trouble and you found it. It was clearly wrong.”
She noted the girl and her mother had argued for leniency and that the mother said her daughter was a willing participant. Neither attended the sentencing Monday.
Paula told Anderson a good rule to live by is to not say, text, Skype or behave in any manner “that you would not be proud to have revealed to your mother.”
Part of Anderson’s original sentence for criminal sexual conduct included 25 years on Michigan’s sex-offender registry and having to register as a lifetime sex offender in Indiana. He’s been removed from Michigan’s list. Anderson’s attorney, Scott Grabel, said the Indiana probation department said he will have to stay on the Indiana sex registry until he completes his probation. Grabel said he will appeal that.
Grabel had successfully argued for the resentencing by saying prosecutors failed to remain neutral on part of the plea deal. He tried to stop Berrien County prosecutor Michael Sepic from commenting about the plea deal during Monday’s sentencing hearing.
Pasula let Sepic comment. He questioned the results of a polygraph that was favorable to Anderson and said he believes Anderson tried to embellish what the polygraph showed. Sepic also questioned several other items in the sentencing report. He didn’t comment to reporters after the hearing.
Anderson commented only briefly, saying he doesn’t want to move to Michigan to avoid being on the Indiana registry because his scholarship to community college is only valid in Indiana and that’s where his parents bought him a house.
Anderson’s parents said they were pleased by the sentence.
“This means he can move on with life,” said his father, Lester Anderson.