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Zach Anderson back in court Wednesday in controversial sex offender case


  UPDATE: Judge Wiley has taken Anderson's request for resentencing under advisement, according to Anderson's lawyer, Scott Grabel. He is expected to issue a ruling within the week. 

He was a 19-year-old from Indiana. She was a Michigan girl who said she was 17. They met online, flirted, and he drove to Michigan to meet her in person. 

They had sex. And when she got home, her mother had called police, worried when her daughter didn't come home for dinner. Turns out, she was actually 14 years old. 

Both the girl and her mother begged the court not to punish Anderson. 

But he still ended up serving 90 days in jail. Now he's sentenced to be on the sex offender registry for 25 years.

It's a case that's gotten national headlines and stirred debate about who, exactly, ends up on these registries, and whether the severity of that punishment always fits the crime. 

On Wednesday, Anderson will be back in court, asking to be re-sentenced, this time in front of a different judge. 

Judge Dennis Wiley of Berrien County heard Anderson's case, and during the trial he railed against today's "hook up" culture and online dating. 

He decided not to give Anderson an exemption for first-time, youthful offenders that would have let Anderson serve time while still walking away with a clean record. He also would not have been required to register as a sex offender for the next 25 years. 

Anderson's lawyer, Scott Grabel, says they're arguing on Wednesday that the terms of Anderson's plea bargain were violated by the prosecutor, Jerry Vigansky.

Grabel says the prosecutor promised Anderson that the prosecution wouldn't argue for the judge to rule one way or another about the youthful exemption. But Grabel says during the trial, Vigansky did point out several other cases in which judges had denied the youthful exemption. 

Now Grabel hopes Anderson will have a clean slate in front of a new judge. 

"I don't think this is a complicated issue. In all due respect, I don't think it takes a legal scholar to say 'Gee, did the prosecutor take a position or not?' But at this point, we're going to argue it and I'm hopeful we can vacate that sentence and move forward. Hopefully we don't have to go to the Court of Appeals, and we can get our relief right now," says Grabel. 

Calls to the Berrien County prosecutor's office were not answered because those offices were closed for the day. We've emailed Vigansky to ask for his comment. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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