Wednesday, October 21, 2015
Michigan judge reduces sentence, removes 19-year-old from s.o. registry in controversial Internet dating case
A different judge in Michigan has reduced the sentence for Zachery Anderson, convicted of “statutory rape” for consensual sex with a 14 year old girl who had lied and said she was 17 when he met her online on a dating site. He will get probation and no longer be on Michigan’s sex offender registry. He will be allowed to use the Internet, but, for now, only for work or school (apparently not for personal social media). The terms are provided by Michigan Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which a previous judge had refused to use. It isn’t yet clear if the record is expunged after successful two years probation. Julie Bosman has the story in the New York Times here. Unfortunately, he stays on the register in Indiana, which complicates his living arrangements. His attorneys expect to challenge that. I had covered the case in a Nightline story on the TV blog Aug. 1, 2015.
Change.org has a copy of his petition here.
The case illustrates the fact that sex offender registry laws often label people not likely to be repeat offenders and originally intended to be listed as such. But offenses are often viewed as “strict liability”, and a teen’s lying about age is not always a defense. And apparently a “Romeo and Juliet law” wasn’t in effect in Michigan.
As I’ve described before, one of my own screenplays deals with the possibility that a substitute teacher could be fooled by precocious student (incident on the “BillBoushka” blog, July 27. 2007).
Another scenario that could happen (more likely in a gay male context) is that an older person meets a “precocious” teen at some public event and the teen, wanting to leave home, later looks up the person (maybe by hacking) on the Internet and simply shows up. That sounds like another movie plot.