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.
Second, that Zachary be given a punishment that truly fits the crime.
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.
Until that day, Zachary had never been suspected of, or charged with, any criminal activity other than one count of distracted driving, which he paid off with 15 hours of shelving library books.
But after public outcry, he got two years' probation instead, on a "diversion program." A program like this is sometimes available for first-time offenders. Or maybe Zachary could do some community service—like speaking at high school assemblies to warn students that what seems like consensual teenage shenanigans could land them on the registry for the rest of their lives.
"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.
It is my understanding that the local sheriff's office performed a forensic analysis on Zachary's computer and found zero incidents of pornography or trolling for females.