An American teenager is fighting for his freedom after being put on the sex offenders register for having sex with an underage girl he met on a dating app.
Zach Anderson, aged 19, from Elkhart, Indiana was recently released from his 90-day sentence in a county jail.
He was jailed after he met a 14-year-old girl on dating app Hot or Not, who claimed to be of age, and had sex with her.
Zach turned himself in earlier this year, after being approached by police at work, unaware of the crime he had committed.
The girl, who suffers from epilepsy, informed Zach of her real age after her mother raised concerns over her disappearance from their home last December, in fear that her daughter would miss a dosage of her medication.
And even though the victim and her mother protested Zach’s innocence in court, the judge gave Zach a strict sentence with a number of severe restrictions.
Since Zach’s conviction, his parents Mr and Mrs Anderson have been campaigning to drop the strict conditions of his punishment, and have been raising money to aid with the cost of Zach’s trial.
Berrien County District Court Judge Dennis Wiley said: “The Internet’s wonderful, thank you, Al Gore. But it also is a danger.”
“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 behaviour. There is no excuse for this, whatsoever.”
Zach was also denied access to a Michigan program that helps first-time offenders under-21 stay off the sex offender register.
He told Nightline: “I wouldn’t even have gone to her house, like I literally wouldn’t have gone to her house at all.
“They make me out to be a monster. I can’t even look at life regularly.”
Michigan State Senator, Rick Jones commented on the controversial case, saying Zach should have acted with more care, realising that the girl wasn’t an “appropriate age” prior to engaging in sex.
Zach and his family are now fighting to rid him of his 25-year registration to the sex offenders list, the five-year smartphone ban and 8pm curfew that were served to him by the court.
The 19-year-old is also prohibited from talking to anyone under the age of 17, with the exception of his younger brothers, and is not permitted to go anywhere that serves alcohol.
So far, the legal and housing fees have totalled $30,900, according to an image posted on the Justice 4 Zach Anderson, Elkhart Facebook page, which now has almost 650 subscribers.
The 19-year-old has also had to move out of the family home in Michigan, as the property is 800ft away from a public boat ramp.
Speaking of his son’s ordeal, Mr Anderson told the South Bend Tribune: “He’s only been on earth 19 years, and his punishment is longer than he’s been alive.”
In an interview with Nightline, he said: “If our son’s a sex offender, there’s a lot of other people on that list like him which dilutes the list, and it almost makes it meaningless.”
The Anderson family are set to return to court to appeal against Zach’s sentence this week.