When my son Zach met a girl through an online dating app, she said she was 17 years old and lived about twenty minutes away. The two decided to meet up and had consensual sex. Zach was a typical 19-year-old studying computer science at Community College — until he found out that the girl had lied about her age and was really 14.
Though the girl admitted to lying about her age and even her parents agreed the encounter was completely consensual and that Zach didn’t do anything wrong, Zach found himself convicted of fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges. He’ll now have to be on a sex offender registry for the next 25 years.
He just finished serving 90 days in jail. Now he’s on probation for the next 5 years and he’s lost all of his work toward his computer science degree — part of his sentence is that he can’t use a computer or smartphone or live in a house with internet access. He can’t even talk to anyone under 17.
This has effectively ruined Zach’s life. And it’s clear to anyone who hears his story that he is not a sexual predator who needs to be on a sex offender list for 25 years. He’s a teenager who met another teen like so many others do, online.
In court, the girls parents didn’t just ask the judge to show Zach leniency, they called for the case against him to be dropped altogether.
Zach plead guilty but only because we were told he would be a candidate for Holmes Youthful Trainee Act status. The HYTA allows first-time offenders older than 17 but not yet 21 to avoid harsher penalties like the state-mandated 25-year listing on the sex offender registry.
But the judge refused to listen to us, Zach, or the parents of the girl.
Now Zach must live his life with a scarlet letter. He has to walk down the street and think: ‘Am I too close to a school? Is there a child who’s close to me? It’s not right and it’s not what the law was intended to do.
As parents, all we want is for our son to be able to pursue his dreams and ambitions in life. We want him to be able to live a normal life. So we’re asking that the Judge, the Prosecutor’s office and the MDOC to drop all charges or grant HYTA to Zach. And we need your help.
Please sign our petition to support Zach and say to the Judge, the Prosecutors office and the MDOC that the sentence given here is wrong, harsh, and unfair.