Online encounter leads to jail time

Published 8:56 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Judge Dennis Wiley described the case as an example of the potential dangers of the internet.

Nineteen-year-old Zachery Nathaniel Anderson, of Elkhart, Indiana, met a girl online through the popular Facebook app, Hot or Not, which has more than 2.9 million likes. According to court documents, the two later decided to meet in person and then engaged in sexual intercourse inside a slide at a Niles playground.

Zachery Anderson

Zachery Anderson

The girl was 14 years old — making the sexual encounter a crime for Anderson, who was 19.

Anderson was sentenced Monday to 90 days in Berrien County Jail and five years on probation on one count of criminal sexual conduct in the fourth degree with a victim aged between 13 and 16. He will also have to register as a sex offender.

“This points out the danger of the internet and the danger of the culture we have now,” Wiley said, adding that it is entirely inappropriate for people to use the internet as a way to find people with which to have casual sex.

“There is no excuse for this whatsoever,” he said.

Anderson’s lawyer, John Gardiner, of Kalamazoo, said while his client takes responsibility for his actions, he believed the girl was 17 years old at the time of the offense. Gardiner also said a person has to indicate they are at least 18 years old to register for the Hot or Not app. The sex between Anderson and the victim was consensual, according to court documents.

Gardiner argued that Anderson should be sentenced under the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows young adults to serve a probationary term without having the criminal conviction entered on their record.

Wiley declined to sentence Anderson under the act.

Assistant Prosecutor Jerry Vigansky said Anderson is one of three people this year to have been convicted of similar offenses after meeting a minor through the Hot or Not app.

He said part of the problem is that people using this app don’t take the appropriate caution to get to know the person they are going to have sexual contact with, including the person’s age.

“We have had a rash of them in the last few months,” he said.

Anderson, who is enrolled at a local college, apologized for his actions and said it wouldn’t happen again.

Also Monday, 41-year-old Jeremy Dennis Kolberg, of Buchanan, was sentenced to 180 days in jail and two years on probation on one count of resisting and obstructing a police officer and 90 days on one count of domestic violence.