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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. 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.
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. If convicted, Zachary's father told me, he faced a theoretically possible maximum sentence of 350 years. This is what prosecutors do: scare defendants into a deal.
Second, that Zachary be given a punishment that truly fits the crime.
If you recall the case of another Zach—Zach Anderson, a 19-year-old who had sex with a girl he honestly believed was 17 (because she said so) but was actually 14—he was originally sentenced to 25 years on the sex offender registry.
As my record indicates, I am certainly not soft on crime and I am not suggesting that Zachary be spared any consequence of his actions.
"I know I'd never do it again because I don't want to go back to jail again in my life," Zachary told Nelson during his psychological evaluation.
Authorities say Baker had sex with two boys, between the ages of 12 and 14, in the public restroom at a war memorial off Silver Springs Boulevard - and that there's even video evidence of at least one of the encounters.
Police say Baker called them on Friday to report the two boys, because they planned to snitch her out for some unspecified crime.
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. 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.
Yes, "violent"—even though he never met the girl in person. "Same category as a murderer." As part of the plea, Zachary also agreed never to appeal. The girl did not wish to prosecute Zachary, according to his dad.