When you imagine the kind of people you would expect to find on the sex offender registry, older men or women with molestation charges in their pasts, or something of similar magnitude might come to mind. A 19-year-old with a potentially bright future, wouldn’t be the first person to top your list of criminals, especially one who simply made a grave mistake.
In an unexpected turn of events for Zach Anderson, this young man from Indiana was sentenced to 90 days in prison, five years probation, and found his way onto the sex offender registry in both Indiana and Michigan for the next 25 years, all because of the mistake he made while using a dating app.
Anderson met a supposed 17-year-old girl who lived in Michigan through the dating app called “Hot Or Not” and had sex with her, which would not be considered an offense had the information reported been true. Unfortunately, the girl was only 14 years old and her lie has altered any plans for a positive future let alone a normal life for Anderson, forever.
The girl and her mother appeared in court to apologize for her life-altering fib. The girl even wrote a note to Anderson and the family, claiming she wishes that she was the one in trouble. It read:
“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.”
However, the judge that was ruling the case was not only concerned with the fact that Anderson had sex with a minor, but he was also disgusted that he was on the app to begin with, which is where a heated controversy regarding who the real dangers on the registry actually are.
The judge commented on the culture of the current generation, and how having meaningless sex is a trend he most certainly does not approve of. Anderson’s parents do not agree with the trend either, as they have raised their children to refrain from sex out-of-wedlock, and while this is a traditional outlook on sex, it is also somewhat outdated. While the culture might not be morally upstanding, there are too many teens today that indulge in it and too many that might find themselves making a similar mistake to Zach’s, which is tragic.
Another concern was raised about the threat that teens like Zach actually pose versus criminals who are in prison for molestation or preying on boys and girls significantly younger than they are. Former judge William Buhl proposed that the process of putting people on the registry needs to be changed because resources are being wasted on people who have different mindsets from the true threats or that are extremely unlikely to perform the same offense, like Zach for example.
Weighing in on the controversy, there does seem to be a huge gap between Zach, who most likely had no sexual predator-like mentality when meeting the girl and someone whose mentality is exactly that, and if that is the case then both of these people need to be treated differently under the law. The fact that a mistake and a lie Anderson did not commit is having this massive an effect on his life that has just barely begun is extremely disheartening.
While Anderson awaits another court hearing, there is hope that his sentence will be alleviated somewhat and that his case will affect some kind of change within the law, but considering the nature of the case, that may not happen for some time if ever.