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******UPDATE: HEARING POSTPONED******* Zach Anderson, Arrested for Consensual Teen Sex, Could Face Prison for Eating Two Slices of Pizza at His Parents’ House with a Minor Present

Zach’s hearing, scheduled for Weds., Oct. 18, has been postponed until further notice.

Zach Anderson, the young man from Elkart, IN, whose harsh punishment for consensual teen sex made headlines around the country in 2015, has been arrested for two violations of probation. What, exactly, did he do?

He had dinner at his parents’ home with his younger brother, 17, and the brother’s friend. The brother thought his friend was 19, but he turned out to be 17. Zach is not allowed to have contact with anyone under 18 except his siblings.

That’s Violation #1.

Then, at church, Zach volunteers on the tech committee. Recently, a 17-year-old girl joined that team. While the two have never met or spoken, the fact that they volunteer on separate teams at the church is a violation of his probation, according to officials who issued a warrant for his arrest last week, because that was Violation #2.

For these charges, Zach, now 22, is heading back to court in Michigan tomorrow. (Zach lives in Indiana, but the “crime” was over the border, in Michigan.) Possible outcomes range from dismissing the charges to extending probation, putting Zach on the sex offender registry, sending him to prison, or any combination thereof.


It was over two years ago that Zach, then 19, was sentenced to 25 years on the sex offender registry for hooking up with a girl he met online who said she was 17 but turned out to be 14.

You may recall that the girl and her mom begged the judge to throw the case out, since there was no way Zach could have known the girl’s real age. Unmoved, Berrien County District Court Judge Dennis Wiley told Zach: “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.”

Interestingly, Judge Wiley has since been reassigned to civil court.

In any event, the  case made it to the front page of the New York Times and Zach was granted a new sentencing. At that  point he was deemed eligible for a youth leniency program and given a sentence of two years’ probation, which was about to end next week.

Instead, reports the South Bend Tribune:

After two years of following a laundry list of restrictions from both states and within days of expecting to be released from probation, Anderson was served an arrest warrant Wednesday night, arraigned Thursday, posted a $500 bond, and is due back in the Niles courtroom this Wednesday.

Zach Anderson’s parents, Les and Amanda, and his Lansing attorney, Scott Grabel, call the new pursuit of Zach’s violations “a witch hunt” by a Michigan probation department that still feels the embarrassment of national criticism that surrounded it in 2015.

A spokesman for the Michigan Department of Corrections, which runs the state’s probation operations, countered Friday that officials were required to notify the judge of the violations, and she ordered the warrant and court appearance.

Michigan found out about Zach’s “violations” when he confessed them at one of the regular polygraph tests he is required to take, at $300 a pop. When asked if he’d had contact with anyone under 18, Zach told of the two slices of pizza he’d eaten at his parents’ home with his brother’s friend, even though they didn’t speak to each other. And he told about learning that a new intern, age 17, had joined the tech team at the Granger Community Church.

The girl wrote a letter to the church attesting to the fact she has not met Zach and doesn’t even know what he looks like. And the creative arts director at the church, Peter Tarwacki, wrote a letter of his own, provided to me by Zach’s Dad, Lester Anderson, stating:

It has come to my attention that Zach has been sited with talking to a minor inside our church walls and I want to make sure we are all on the same page about this.

We are aware of Zach’s past at GCC, so we have taken every measure to make sure that he is following his court orders to the fullest. I have experienced Zach asking me many times how old someone is and if ever hearing they were a minor, he would tell me right away “I’m not allowed to talk to them”. I have witnessed him ignore a hello from a minor and even go upstairs if a kid would get near him on the main floor.  Zach has shown nothing but integrity when it comes to these situations to make sure he is not violating any of the policies put in place for him. When he attends evening rehearsal he will say “I need to leave to get home in time for my curfew”. He had told me before that I can’t email him because he is not allowed to be on the internet. My entire experience with Zach has been him trying to never violate any of the restrictions placed on him.

The fact that Zach’s probation rules require him to be home by 9 p.m. every day, and not leave till 7 a.m. already seems harsh. So does the fact he is not allowed on the internet for any reason other than school homework. And so does the fact he had to move out of his parents’ home because it was too close to a dock, and “sex offenders” are not allowed to live near any place children congregate. (Docks as child magnets — who knew?)

But the fact he is literally not allowed to act like a normal human being seems beyond harsh.

It seems like torture.

Zach literally has to shun anyone under age 18. Simply saying “Hi” to a minor is treated like a sex crime. Not only has this required Zach to go through two years like some kind of social zombie, it also has literally nothing to do with his so-called crime. His offense was having consensual sex, once, with a young woman he believed to be about his own age. He was never accused of preying on children, or grooming victims. Yet the probation officers could and did force Zach to behave in bizarre and sickening ways that seem designed to drive any sane person crazy.

After Zach received the warrant for his arrest last week, he and his parents arrived at court with the letters from the 17-year-old church intern, and Tarwacki, the church arts director. Lester Anderson said it was good they did because although the bond set at $5,000, the lead prosecutor showed up hoping to raise it to $20,000. When Grabel, Zach’s attorney, showed the prosecutor saw the documents, the bond stayed at $5000.

This whole case is so clearly payback for the massive attention brought to the justice system in both states. And yet, Indiana was ready to release Zach from probation, so it is only Michigan that is like a dog with a bone, unwilling to stop slobbering over the deliciousness of ruining a young man’s life just because it can.

Or at least it can try.

Zach will be back in court tomorrow, along with his witnesses.





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40 Responses to ******UPDATE: HEARING POSTPONED******* Zach Anderson, Arrested for Consensual Teen Sex, Could Face Prison for Eating Two Slices of Pizza at His Parents’ House with a Minor Present

  1. Dienne October 17, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    Okay, I know this seems like the most minor detail in this whole ridiculous story, but exactly what kind of “dock” are we talking about? Like the kind that goes into a lake? Or the kind that trucks pull into? If the former, why not just say he can’t live near a lake? If the latter, WTF?

  2. John B. October 17, 2017 at 12:11 pm #

    Stories like this just want to make my head explode.

  3. Dienne October 17, 2017 at 12:25 pm #

    Incidentally, if it is the body of water type of dock, that seems particularly cruel in Elkhart, which has two rivers running through it.

  4. Another Katie October 17, 2017 at 12:32 pm #

    Meanwhile, a person living around the block and a person living two houses away from us are both convicted of crimes against pre-pubescent children and have very few to no restrictions on where they live or where they can go. If we’re going to have a registry, the rules for those on probation should at least be consistent across jurisdictions.

    Incidentally the neighbor was convicted of MULTIPLE crimes against young children, several years apart in each case; he basically got out of prison and re-offended within a year or two each time. His parents own the home and he lives there, and actually attempted to befriend the neighbors (including our kids) before we found out about his past. IMO he’s the kind of offender that the registry SHOULD be used for.

  5. Kenny Felder October 17, 2017 at 12:59 pm #

    Thanks as always for reminding us that the laws put in place with the attitude “one child’s life ruined is too many” are actually ruining the lives of children. You seem to be one of the few people who gets that, or at least who speaks out about it publicly.

  6. Tim October 17, 2017 at 1:01 pm #

    @Dienne, It’s cruel enough because there are so many places sex offenders can’t live that they are sometimes forced into homeless camps, but there is no reason for this restriction in the first place. There is no evidence that Anderson has any interest in young people in the first place much less being some sort of a “danger” to them. The rules of his parole absolutely seem designed for failure.

    And as despicable as the Judges comments about kids hooking up these days are, let’s not forget one of the author’s of Michigan’s cruel sex offender registry laws, Rick Jones, who suggested that people who can’t use computers can just become welders and truck drivers. He happily creates these restrictions while ignoring that welds are set up with apps and calculators, and truck drivers use apps for scheduling and maintenance. It seems there is a system in place that just doesn’t care about destroying lives.

  7. AmyP October 17, 2017 at 1:22 pm #

    @Another Katie

    And this is what upsets me the most about these situations. My childhood molester had a slap on the wrist for four years worth of abuse. That was a long time ago so I could almost chalk it up to it not being taken seriously in the past and now it’s better, but no it’s still like that. You’re hear about this guy going through all this mess for something that as far as I can tell shouldn’t be a crime (I don’t know all details so I’m not saying I couldn’t be wrong about that) and then there was that school janitor that coerced a 14 year old into giving him oral sex on school property (the fact she was a juvenile was obvious since it was at school) who got probation and did not have to register. The disparaging in sentencing is outrageous sometimes. It’s like how there’s rape kits that haven’t been tested for a decade at the same time that somebody is getting a 20 year sentence for having marijuana on them. Either way, the registry should not exist. It’s pretty useless for both offenders and “offenders.” How about giving people adequate sentences for things for crimes (not “crimes”) and be done with it? A criminal background check performed by a school or whomever should suffice when determining whether to hire. A sex offender may reoffend. So may a murderer. We don’t have registries for them.

  8. Lois Marshall October 17, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    Another Katie: Being on the registry and being on probation are not necessarily the same thing.
    The neighbor of yours who is a repeat child molester should be in jail for a very long time, not put back on the street. However, given that he is back on the street, he should be in therapy, and is probably on probation. This should come with restrictions from his probation officer similar to the ones in this story. If you feel he is attempting re-offense, perhaps you should report him to his probation officer.
    A google search for a name can reveal more information than the registry. If someone is behaving suspiciously, you would do better to google their name than to go to the registry. The information is more reliable and more understandable.
    “Crimes against pre-pubescent children” could mean urinating drunkenly in an alley while being accidentally observed by a child.
    If the date of the most recent offense is more than 10 years ago, the odds are good that they will not re-offend. That rate is now about the same as the general public.
    Getting caught is often the trigger that causes a sexual offender to stop offending. If, on top of that, they have been successfully through a treatment program, the chances that they will re-offend is cut in half.
    The typical registry does not give enough information for you to make a good decision on. I can make a good guess at what the registry entry for this young man looks like. It probably gives a statute citation and says that he was guilty of the rape of a child under the age of 16. The consensual nature of the sex is immaterial as far as the listing goes. The listing may or may not give the date of the offense. In order to find out how old the person was at the time of the offense, you have to figure it out for yourself, and the age is probably not listed anywhere near the conviction date (if given).
    I suppose you have now been given more information than you thought you needed, yet you still don’t know what actually happened or if the person in question has finished treatment. Honestly, if you want that information, you need to talk to the person. You may be surprised by what you find out.

  9. Theresa Hall October 17, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    Maybe he should sue for cruel punishment. Since it is impossible to go into the world without being near a minor. The whole world has minors. It pretty hard to avoid them.
    I sure that when he signed up for the dating site he was hoping for some bedroom fun. But unless he forced himself on someone he not a rapists in my opinion. And since the lying victim and her mom didn’t want charges in first place he should be allowed a normal life.

  10. Jana October 17, 2017 at 1:39 pm #

    I wish Zach all the best and sincerely hope that his case will be dismissed. My goodness, why certain people see sex everywhere (meaning that judge)?

  11. JTW October 17, 2017 at 1:53 pm #

    Sounds more like a get rich quick scheme on the part of the police district. $20.000 bail, $300 fine (what else can we call it) every so often for a “polygraph test”, and who knows what other expenses placed upon him.

    Given that, I’ve little doubt he’ll get his “probation” extended for several more years, in the hope he’ll “transgress” again and they can leach more money out of him.

    Welcome to the modern “justice” system, where crime and punishment are determined by what someone can bring in income for the state rather than the severity of his transgressions towards the community.

  12. Liz October 17, 2017 at 2:21 pm #

    It still disturbs me that the initial judge sentenced him, essentially, for a moral complaint, that he was looking for a hookup with someone who wanted that too. That’s none of the judge’s business, if he wants to do that or not. The government is not in charge of our moral welfare.
    Also, they made a condition of his parole that he be hooked up to a lie detector? That’s garbage! The machine’s don’t work! Even the inventor of the machine pointed out that it was never intended to be a legal, scientific devise, and said that he regrets making it after seeing how it was being used! Both “Penn & Teller’s BS” and “Adam Ruins Everything” did episodes on it, because it’s unscientific nonsense, intended to scare someone into confessing something they may not have even done, because the person hooked up thinks it’s a real, scientific instrument and is terrified of the consequences. Serial killers have “passed” it, as have spies. It’s not admissible in court because it’s garbage, and yet he has to be subjected to it as a condition from the court?! Who are these judges who are handing out these sentences?!

  13. Theresa Hall October 17, 2017 at 2:37 pm #

    It is impossible to avoid minors in a world full of them. No matter how hard he may try there is just no way for him to avoid minors in a world full of them. You try to live a normal life and still avoid minors and you can’t do it. He could lock himself away from everyone but then he never have any kind of life. Therefore this is cruel and usual punishment and therefore illegal.

  14. jimc5499 October 17, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    The same thing could be said about the breathalyzer.

  15. Crazy Cat Lady October 17, 2017 at 2:58 pm #

    I am sorry for this young man. One mistake should not ruin the rest of your life. These things that they have these kids go through to stay out of jail…this REALLY seems excessive. And not even the fault of him…but more the family in the case of the kid eating pizza.

    And the other time, with the church thing….can’t even be in the same building? Surrounded by other adults and never alone? Can’t even say “hello”? That is just downright stupid. That means he can’t go to the store. Think about it…if the only cashier is 17, he can’t check out as that would be interacting with a minor. Or any fast food place……it is just a mind boggling requirement.

  16. Donald October 17, 2017 at 4:07 pm #

    When I read this, I think of Fifty Shades of Grey. Sex perversion comes in mind but not with Jack.
    S&M is associated with sex toys as a way of inflicting pain. However, I can’t help wondering if some judges or district attornies enjoy the power.

    They can distance themselves from low morals because they can also hide behind, “I’m only doing my job”!

  17. Donald October 17, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

    There are rules around probation are suppose to be put in place so that they can’t re-offend. However, if they are over-the-top they are not about that anymore. They are about revenge justice.

  18. Harrow October 17, 2017 at 4:18 pm #

    Evidently the Michigan Probation Department feel that they were not sufficiently embarrassed in 2015 and have decided to come back for a second helping.

    They would have the public believe that Zach Anderson was a model of propriety for one year, eleven months, fifteen days, and then suddenly began defiantly to associate with minors.

    I am twice offended: once on behalf of Zach, because the MPD are torturing him for what is essentially a morals charge, and again on my own behalf, because the MPD think I am stupid enough to believe they are doing this for the public good.

  19. Bmj2k October 17, 2017 at 4:23 pm #

    I can’t see how either of these violations is his fault. In fact, since he never saw or had any contact whatsoever with the volunteer girl I don’t think it was a violation anyway. If he was shot in a robbery, sent to emergency room, and there was a teenager in the next stretcher, would that be a violation too?

  20. Theresa Hall October 17, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    Apparently being in the same room counts in their book. Not dating is one thing but this is Overkill. like I said unless he locks himself away from the world he can’t avoid them.

  21. David N. Brown October 17, 2017 at 6:01 pm #

    I don’t find Mr. Anderson to be particularly “innocent”: Even if he had discovered the girl’s age on meeting her and walked away, he would still be responsible for the presumably “explicit” on line correspondencescorrespondence that led to that point. That said, I find the stated conditions of his probation too extreme and bizarre for serious discussion. The only honest approacg I can see is to require the offender to tell minors in the vicinity to leave, and punish the kids ( or their parents!) If they don’t comply.

  22. NY Mom October 17, 2017 at 6:18 pm #

    Or cruelty for the sake of cruelty?

  23. Donna October 17, 2017 at 7:19 pm #

    No contact provisions are an extremely common part of a criminal sentence. They are not confined to sex crimes. In fact, most convictions involving victims have them. Barring contact with the actual victim is most common, but they also commonly include larger groups of people like entire families, all employees, minors and the like just depending on the nature of the crime.

    And no contact means literally NO CONTACT. While talking is definitely prohibited, “contact” is absolutely not limited to talking. Merely being in the same room or house or at the same event constitutes “contact” in most circumstances. There is no normal English definition of “contact” that excludes sharing a meal with someone regardless of the extent of conversation between the parties. The pizza at mom’s was clearly a probation violation. As soon as it was discovered that the friend was a minor, one of them had to leave the house to avoid Zach being arrested.

    The church issue is less clear. It does appear that he was in the same room as the intern, but this seems more akin to someone simply being another customer in a grocery store. While this is still prohibited with defined victims (eg If you are barred from having contact with John Smith specifically, you can’t even be in Wal-mart at the same time as him), it does not generally extend to less defined no contact provisions such as minors or you prohibit the probationer from basic life functions such as eating or going to the doctor, etc.

  24. patricia October 17, 2017 at 9:05 pm #

    This is crazy stuff, how many of these lawmakers took similar action in their youth which they have forgotten and have now hold double standards ridiculously judgmental and fear based. What are we setting these young people up for ? one can only hope they will change the law as once they get older. Why do lawmakers not get that punishment as extreme as this just causes resentment, suppression and the possibility of yet another potential human being wanting to take revenge. When will America wake up to the fact they are causing so much violence by imposing such ridiculously harsh penalties while letting even their president getaway with far worse in the way he is abusive.

  25. Donald October 17, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    The law is the law. No contact means just that. Jack’s ability to have sex with this minor on the dinner table is irrelevant. Common sense does not apply. We have blanket laws and these cannot be overlooked. Few have the power to do so and to those that have the power are not brave enough to use it. To do so will give them a label of, “soft on crime” and that can end their career.

  26. Jennifer C October 17, 2017 at 9:16 pm #

    This almost seems like it’s deliberately set up for him to fail. And how on earth can he be responsible for a girl who has never met him and joined the church group without his knowledge? It would seem that the church would be more culpable. And I’m sorry, but the pizza thing is just ridiculous.

  27. Theresa Hall October 17, 2017 at 10:08 pm #

    The problem with no contact you can’t not have some from of contact with people when you go out into the world. And even though he is to avoid minors in a world full of them he have never leave home just make sure not to bump into a minor unknowingly. As for him going to a dating site and hinting that he love some bedroom fun with the girl who lied about her age and probably wouldn’t have received any response from him had he know the truth before the cops got involved. These statutory rape laws are silly. I’m sorry if you don’t agree but whining about how teens keep hooking up isn’t going change anything.

  28. JTW October 18, 2017 at 4:22 am #

    ” And how on earth can he be responsible for a girl who has never met him and joined the church group without his knowledge? ”

    He can’t, if he were to fight his case those clauses would (if justice is served) be deemed unconstitutional as the constitution states that a person must take the actions he takes deliberately to be held responsible for them.
    So he shouldn’t be held accountable for being in the same building as a minor if he doesn’t know there is a minor present there.

    And even then the restrictions are ridiculous, in that anyone under 18 can bully him into headlong flight by walking up to him screaming “I’m a child” and he has to run away to avoid “contact”.

  29. Richard Stanford October 18, 2017 at 6:46 am #

    @Donna, “As soon as it was discovered that the friend was a minor, one of them had to leave the house to avoid Zach being arrested.”

    Its not clear that that would have saved him. He violated the letter of his parole the second that they sat down together, even unknowingly (after all, unknowing age violations got him into this mess in the first place, so its hardly without precedent).

  30. BL October 18, 2017 at 8:37 am #

    Can any of our legal beagles comment on why the hearing would be indefinitely postponed? Anything to do with the sort of publicity this case has been getting (i.e., by a certain Lenore Skenazy)?

  31. Dienne October 18, 2017 at 9:53 am #

    “I don’t find Mr. Anderson to be particularly “innocent”: Even if he had discovered the girl’s age on meeting her and walked away, he would still be responsible for the presumably “explicit” on line correspondencescorrespondence that led to that point.”

    Wha…? He was nineteen and he was on a dating site. Of course he was “explicit” – that’s what dating sites are for. By your standards, let’s round up anyone who’s ever suggested more than square dancing on a dating site – after all some 14 year old pretending to be 17 could respond to it. The private prison industry would love your way of thinking.

  32. Dienne October 18, 2017 at 9:58 am #

    Further to BL’s question, what does it mean for Zach that his hearing has been postponed? Is this going to further extend his probation? And if he’s out on bond, isn’t that longer he’ll have to wait to get that money back? I don’t think this is a good thing for Zach. Michigan should either have the courage of their convictions and hold the hearing or they should drop the further charges.

  33. Dave Booth October 18, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    This is what happens in a religiously conservative state where judge’s personal beliefs trump the rule of law, and where laws reflect their puritan attitudes.

  34. Donna October 18, 2017 at 12:06 pm #

    “Can any of our legal beagles comment on why the hearing would be indefinitely postponed?”

    It can mean different things. It can mean that they just had to continue for some reason today and the case will be placed on an upcoming court calendar. Continuances are not uncommon and are done for hundreds of reasons.

    It could also mean that the DA has no intent on proceeding with this matter right now. It is my understanding that Zach’s sentence is nearly over. They could have decided to hold this in abeyance to wait to see if there are any more issues between now and then and, if there are, they would proceed on both cases and if not, his probation would just be allowed to end without ever adjudicating this violation.

    Only Zach’s attorney who talked to the prosecutor would know for certain why this hearing was continued and what this means for Zach.

    “Is this going to further extend his probation?”

    No, only a Judge can extend his probation via a resentencing. State law may vary, but in my state the ability to prosecute an outstanding probation violation ends when the probation ends. They would have to bring Zach in for this hearing before his probation ends in order to extend his probation, put him in jail or exact any other sanction.

    “And if he’s out on bond, isn’t that longer he’ll have to wait to get that money back?”

    Bond is held by the court until the case is over. That would be either another court date or the expiration of the ability to prosecute due to Zach’s probation ending.

    That said, it appears that Zach may have used a bondsman since he only paid $500 of a $5000 bond. If so, Zach was never getting that money back regardless of when his hearing took place. You don’t get the money you pay bondmen back. That is the bondman’s fee for paying the rest of the bond and getting you out of jail.

  35. David N. Brown October 18, 2017 at 4:45 pm #

    @Dienne: I didn’t really mean to address whether he would sill have been open to criminal charges. In those terms, the strongest I could see would be on the lines of giving pornography to a minor ( NOT “kiddie porn’). It’s just common sense not to discuss certain things online with people you haven’t met in person. Of course, the party that should have the most to answer for is the website that let the girl set up an account, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg of actively enabled impersonation online.

  36. Dienne October 18, 2017 at 6:43 pm #

    David – you said even if he walked away he wouldn’t be innocent because of the “explicit” nature of his online correspondence. But he absolutely would be innocent because there’s nothing wrong with writing explicit content on an online dating site where there is an assumption that everyone participating is of age. That is the purpose of the site, for pity’s sake.

    And I’m not sure how it is that the website is at fault. How do you propose they police underage minors joining their site? Maybe someday we’ll have the technology to require a retinal scan for ID purposes before joining such a site (I shudder to think), but until then the onus is on underage individuals not to misrepresent themselves and for parents to supervise their underage minors.

  37. David N. Brown October 18, 2017 at 9:09 pm #

    @Dienne: If the usual activities on a site presuppose that all present are adults, then it would be all the more important for the admins to try to screen out those who misrepresent themselves. This should at least mean that those who find evidence of deception and other abuse have a viable means to report it and a reasonable chance of resulting action. An unfortunate wrinkle that I have personally experienced is that certain provisions of current law make it far more difficult to sue or prosecute a site that flatly refuses to act against proven liars and criminals than one that honestlt tries to implement responsible policies without complete success. Again, kids lying about their age just scratched the surface of the problem.

  38. Papilio October 19, 2017 at 3:23 pm #

    Well I only see one victim here, and it’s not a minor.

  39. Anonymous October 20, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    If I were the judge, I’d give him an added 3 days of probation. “extremely trivial offense merits extremely trivial punishment”.

  40. Harrow October 20, 2017 at 11:33 pm #

    I apologize to the Michigan Probation Department, whom I have inadvertently insulted in a previous comment to this thread. I believed them to be responsible for Zach’s current plight, when it is fact the Indiana Probation Department who are behaving like Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin at his worst.