Does the punishment fit the crime? That is what the family of an Elkhart teenager is asking after their son was sentenced to 25 years as a registered sex offender.
19-year-old Zachery Anderson had sex with a 14-year-old girl from Niles. Both teens say the sex was consensual but the girl lied about her age, claiming she was 17.
Now, Anderson sits in a Berrien County jail. His family and the girl's family both want his sentence changed. They are upset because a state law allows for a less severe punishment because Anderson is under 21, but the judge chose not to show that leniency.
"He honestly thought he was meeting a 17-year-old girl," said Les Anderson, Zach's father. "He meant no harm to that girl."
Instead of a 17-year-old, Les' second oldest son met a 14-year-old who had lied about her age in an app.
The two met and had sex. Police found out because the girl's mother was worried she had gone missing.
"[Zach] has not done anything my daughter didn't do," said the girl's mother, who asked not to be identified because her daughter is a minor and considered the victim in this case.
It's Les and Amanda Anderson though, who can only see their child on a monitor when they visit him in jail.
"We're probably looking at 40 days," said Les. "And not to be able to just wrap your arms around your kid and say I love you, give him a hug, that hurts."
40 days ago Anderson pleaded guilty, with the hope of being granted a status available to under 21-year-olds, but he wasn't.
"He can't talk to anybody under the age of 17 for 5 years, except for his brothers," explained Les. "He can't reside in a home that has Internet or Internet access, or smart phone use, this is for five years."
Zach's family is not the only one fighting on his behalf. The 14-year-old and her mother both asked the judge for leniency.
"More than [leniency], we asked him to drop the case and he didn't do it," said the girl's mother.
The Anderson's say they know what their son did was wrong, but that the punishment does not fit the crime.
"I think the shirt says it simple, give his life back," said Les. "We want [Zach] to be able to be able to be a normal 19-year-old."
The Anderson's say if this situation had played out in Elkhart, instead of Niles, their son would probably not be in jail; that is because Indiana is one of 20 states that says if a victim lies about their age, that fact can be used as a legal defense.
The Anderson's plan to file an appeal soon, and hope to get Zach that status that would remove this incident from his record and lessen the future impact on his life.