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Teen offered 350 years or life as SVP for sexting!

By Lenore Skenazy . . . Zachary, now 19, is in jail awaiting sentencing for five pictures his teenage girlfriend sent him of herself in her underwear. He faced a choice between a possible (though unlikely) maximum sentence of 350 years in prison, or lifetime on the sex offender registry as a “sexually violent offender”—even though he never met the girl in person. Here’s what happened.

About two years ago, when Zachary was a 17-year-old high school senior in Stafford County, Virginia, a girl in his computer club invited him over to visit. She introduced him to her younger sister, age 13. This younger sister told Zachary he reminded her of a friend: this friend, also a 13-year-old girl, shared Zachary’s love of dragons and videogames.

The two 13-year-olds started skyping Zachary together. Eventually Zachary and the dragon-lover struck up a online friendship, which developed into a online romance. By the summer, a month after Zachary turned 18, the girl sent him five pictures of herself in her underwear. Her face was not visible, nor were her private parts.

That’s according to information provided by Zachary’s parents, as well as an evaluation with Zachary conducted by a psychologist. Zachary is incredibly smart, according to the psychologist, though socially awkward and emotionally immature. Importantly, he does not possess “distorted” ideas about sex, according to the psychologist.

Even so, Zachary was arrested and charged with 20 felonies, including indecent liberties with a minor, using a computer to propose sex, and “child porn reproduce/transmit/sell,” even though he did not send or sell the pictures to anyone. All this, from five underwear pictures. If convicted, Zachary’s father told me, he faced a theoretically possible maximum sentence of 350 years.

Instead, he took a plea bargain. This is what prosecutors do: scare defendants into a deal. Zachary agreed to plead guilty to two counts of “indecent liberties with a minor.” For this, he will be registered as a violent sex offender for the rest of his life.

Yes, “violent”—even though he never met the girl in person.

Zachary’s dad wrote to the authorities asking about this, and got a letter back from the Virginia State Police reiterating that, “This conviction requires Zachary to register as a sexually violent offender.”

The letter, which was obtained by Reason, added that in three years, “a violent sex offender or murderer” can petition to register less frequently than every three months.

“How do you like that?” said the dad in a phone conversation with me. “Same category as a murderer.”

As part of the plea, Zachary also agreed never to appeal. He will be sentenced on March 9. Until then, he remains in jail.

If this sounds like a punishment wildly out of whack with the crime, welcome to the world of teens, computers, and prosecutors who want to look tough on sex offenders. The girl did not wish to prosecute Zachary, according to his dad. He told me the pictures came to light because she had been having emotional issues, possibly due to her parents’ impending divorce. Eventually she was admitted to a mental health facility for treatment, and while there she revealed the relationship to a counselor. The counselor reported this to her mother, the police, or both (this part is unclear), leading the cops to execute a search warrant of Zachary’s electronic devices where they found the five photos and the chat logs.

Please continue reading Lenore’s posting at reason.com.

Be sure to follow Lenore’s own blog at Free Range Kids.

This topic contains 19 replies, has 2 voices, and was last updated by  Chipmunk 4 months ago.

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  • #8399 Reply

    David

    This is just plain and simple a war on men!

  • #8400 Reply

    Maestro

    It really pisses me off when articles like this one (on their respective web pages) do NOT have a COMMENTS section.
    How is anyone supposed to do an “out-cry” if there’s no comments section? Ugh!!

  • #8401 Reply

    NARSOL
    Keymaster

    They do have a comment section; it is all the way to bottom. Then you click on “View comments.” There are over 100.

  • #8402 Reply

    James Townsend

    Has anybody ever heard of the word miscarriage of Justice. First authorities will give a bogus operation of an underage child. Hey I even get e-mails from people saying .. want to hook up or I’m waiting for you click on … such and such to chat… Its just a police con.
    These police are marketing most all of us caught up in all this. We are money in the bank for them. They know sex is more appealing than saying come on over and lets have some fun when they know…. since they are on a sex site anyway one wouldn’t be coming over to talk about the stock market.
    And on some of the papers we all sign when we take a plea deal is that we cannot defend ourselves as there is some clause they try to enforce in those rules and rights they give one. That in itself needs to be addressed.

  • #8403 Reply

    Bobby

    The Judge is obviously a dumb ass, first the girl should be charged not the boy,2nd there is no injured party or damaged property, therefore the court does not have legal Jurisdiction under Common Law. I know or courts and laws play under their own LAWS,and give the Constitution the middle finger all day every day. This whole mess should be deemed Illegal and be thrown out but we know it won’t the law and the Government are messed up big time.

  • #8404 Reply

    Rajendra

    I bet the prosecutor can sleep sound knowing that he/she put a violent sexual predator in the registry and thus prevented any children from ever being sexually assaulted again. Kudos to the legal system of Merika.

  • #8405 Reply

    In Search of Liberty

    This persecutor, ah, prosecutor has to be suffering from some type of paranoid delusion. Either that or he is bucking for King of the World! I have never heard of such an outrageous sentence. Hell, even Charles Manson didn’t get that kind of number offered to him to plead out. Seriously, this persecutor, I mean prosecutor, doesn’t need psychological help, he needs an EXORCISM!

  • #8406 Reply

    IAC possibly?

    I don’t know if you can legally stop someone from appealing in a plea deal. They don’t have the authority to remove the right even if you agree to it. I would challenge that in the courts. My two cents….sounds like ineffective assistance of counsel to me.

  • #8407 Reply

    Maestro

    I always check the bottoms of news pages and I didn’t see comments. Ok, will check again.

  • #8408 Reply

    James Townsend

    You know they say to error is human to forgive divine. I’m sure we all have heard of redress of grievance and with the court systems wanting to win to make those of government send a message… You and only You can send the message. This whole affair show’s no dignity to any parties.
    It is only a game to send a message to those that want to dabble into this sex game government plays.
    Humans would rather be right than wrong. That’s just human nature. Shoot with all this going on I just might as well toss my bible out the window or watch the rainmaker again.

  • #8409 Reply

    Lli

    I think your right, this young man did nothing wrong, now his life may be ruined for ever and for what? He didn’t do ANYTHING. How many young lives have to be destroyed before people demand an end to this lunacy? Where you at Donald Trump? A bunch of judges and prosecutors (political prostitutes) that have no problem DESTROYING a young man over nothing it’s incomphrehensible to me and Morally wrong, and I hope that they will sit among the lowest pits of hell.

  • #8410 Reply

    Lli

    I think your right, this young man did nothing wrong, now his life may be ruined for ever and for what? He didn’t do ANYTHING. How many young lives have to be destroyed before people demand an end to this lunacy? Where you at Donald Trump? A bunch of judges and prosecutors (political prostitutes) that have no problem DESTROYING a young man over nothing it’s incomphrehensible to me and Morally wrong, and I hope that they will sit among the lowest pits of hell.

  • #8411 Reply

    Dave

    Shows the double standards clear as water! I don’t think ether of these kids should be a criminal but she produced the pictures and sent them to him can you anticipate what you are going to get on your phone before you get it? Is it even his fault for what she did? Really? How about NO! Look at it from this perspective lets say a girl hates this guy so she takes a picture of her vagina and sends it to his phone and then indirectly tells the cops he has the picture on his phone how ridiculous is this. Most states require some kind of sexual conduct in the photos or at least bare genitalia. The prosecutor is abusing his discretion. There was also probably no “Fair Notice” that this would be a crime in this states law books. A good lawyer could smash this case and sue for damages.

  • #8412 Reply

    In Search of Liberty

    Wow! The lives that this monster named “registry” has devoured. Can it be compared to the gas chambers that took hundreds of thousands of lives in Nazi concentration camps during WWII? Well no, because there is no physical killing when put on the registry. What you have however, is a social death, may be a psychological death, given the number of suicides in recent years as a result of being put on the registry. Certainly a financial death as the registry severely constrains your career opportunities. Decent housing is most definitely killed as most property owners and apartment managers are loath to rent to a registrants, hence, a very high homelessness rate among registrants. Of yes of course, if you have the right kind of annual income, you can most certainly purchase your own home but here is the catch with that scenario: the state is going to make sure, by blowing the registry horn real loud, that the whole neighborhood knows you that you are there. And we all know the results that will bring about. But I am not telling anyone anything they don’t already know about being on this registry thing.

  • #8413 Reply

    H n H

    I don’t know how else to get this through anymore. These aren’t “crimes”, they are an outright abuse of power. What is wrong with this country that we’ve allowed this to happen? It’s glaringly obvious that power is being abused, but who’s doing anything about it? What about this young man and his life? What about the people murdered for being on the registry? What about my stupid case which I DID fight for, for being something so trivial, only to be convicted and later find out that the only reason it went to a trial was because my fiance’s ex husband wanted to destroy her through me and by taking my career? What on earth is wrong with this country that everyone is so lulled into the false sense of protection these trumped up charges and the registry produce?

    There is no way to fight this system. As soon as someone stands up to the powers to be, then society reacts like a raging baboon screaming “If you hurt a child you deserve what you get!” They don’t want to know that a VAST majority of the charges and destroyed lives stem from abuse of power. I’m sorry to say this, but the ONLY way it will be resolved is to decriminalize all these sex charges. (Violent rapes excluded) That isn’t to say make underage sex legal, but that it takes the power away from the courts because they can NOT be trusted to NOT abuse their power! Does anyone understand this? Or am I just tapping at the keyboard in vain? Treat people involved in these cases as decent people who made a mistake, as a civil matter and get the people the help they need to create boundaries for what’s morally acceptable. But to destroy someones life? While the families are screaming not to destroy a life, and as the DA laughs his butt off? IT SHOULD MAKE PEOPLE MAD! ANGRY! The same thing occurred with the race riots in the 60’s, and it’s only going to get worse people.

  • #8414 Reply

    NH Registrant

    I’ve been thinking about it a lot recently since my health has been going downhill faster with each coming year. I’m technically already dead. I’ve been dead since I was tackled and beaten up by cops in front of my own home a decade ago. That started this whole ball rolling. Being on the registry for LIFE feels like you’re someone else’s paycheck for life. So, I’ve come to the realization that I am really dead but my body hasn’t gotten the memo yet. I’ve been completely alone and don’t dare date anyone because their entire family will need to know I am on the Registry. That is a hell of a gamble to take. All they have to do is get upset about something I say or if I break up with their family member. Everyone has a cell phone and, since I am a registered citizen, any story they cook up will be instantly believed. Then, what would I have to look forward to? Back to prison for maybe a decade this time? So, since I am on the edge of being elderly, I will get to pass away in prison? Yeah. Lots to look forward to. I am grateful that I got to live the first half of my life NOT on a public registry. If they bust these 18 year olds for sexting, give them the longer prison sentences they have these days, and have them on the registry for life, then they have pretty much publicly executed them. Does the punishment fit the crime? I don’t think so at all. But, some people do. And Politicians/Police/Prison Industry People bank on that kind of ignorance.

  • #8415 Reply

    NH Registrant

    H n H, the problem in this country is that people have been dumbed down and brainwashed by constant propaganda being thrown in their faces every time they watch ANYTHING on television, listen to a radio, or pick up a newspaper. In my state, the news station has a sex crime story 5-6 nights a week on average. They make it seem like there are sex crimes happening everywhere. That’s because most media is owned by the same people who have their fingers in the Prison Industry/Law Enforcement/Military pie. All three of those are tied together. Why do you think we have so many damaged vets becoming cops? Why do all of the jails and prisons (including Guantanamo Bay) have the same light fixtures/clothing/materials? It’s all tied together into one giant cash cow. No politician or public figure would DARE point out this modern day witch hunt – other than VERY brave people like Sean Penn, etc. – because it would be career suicide! People have been dumbed down and brainwashed in the general public. It’s not only on the news, it is in virtually every single show on television. At some point in EVERY show, some sort of sex crime story or joke will happen. It’s a pretty ignorant and sick world we live in, sadly.

  • #8416 Reply

    Kevin

    Based on what the article presents tell me how the state finds these pictures to be child pornography. There is no mention of nudity so if this is classified as child pornography then corporations such as Sears, Kohls, ect, ect should be faced with charges of producing/manufacturing child pornography on a mass scale for having underage children pose in bathing suits, under ware ect ect.

  • #8417 Reply

    Chipmunk

    Sentencing a 17-year old, or even and 19 year old to 300+ years is child abuse by the government.

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