A man who sued video vigilante Zach Sweers for running a clandestine sting operation targeting sex predators was sentenced Tuesday to two years’ probation stemming from his encounter with Sweers outside a fast food restaurant.
Zachary Allen Snoeyink in August pleaded no contest to attempted accosting of children for immoral purposes.
Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan told Snoeyink it could have been much worse had he actually met with a minor, rather than Sweers.
“I know that you have a different spin on this but quite honestly it was made very clear, I believe, in the discussions you had that you believed this to be a 15-year-old,’’ the judge said. “I think you’re very fortunate it turned out to be someone like this individual, whether the authorities liked what he did.’’
Sweers sat in the back of the courtroom for today’s sentencing.
Five of the seven cases have now been resolved with either a plea or conviction. Trials are pending in two other cases filed by the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office against men snared in the video dragnet.
Sweers, 23, posed as a 15-year-old girl to flush out men looking to have sex with a minor. The evidence was turned over to Grand Rapids police and led to criminal charges against men ranging in age from 19 to 68.
In exchange for Snoeyink's plea, prosecutors dropped the original accosting charge, a four-year felony, and agreed not to charge him with using a computer to commit a crime.
The 29-year-old Cedar Springs man had faced up to two years in prison.
In addition to probation, the judge ordered Snoeyink to perform 120 hours of community service. He also has to register as a sex offender.
Snoeyink in May filed a personal injury lawsuit against Sweers and Anxiety War LLC, alleging libel and slander. The civil case was dismissed Aug. 18.
Snoeyink was charged for a January incident outside the Taco Bell restaurant on Leonard Street NW west of U.S. 131. He responded to a Craigslist ad and arranged a meeting, unaware the person he was meeting was Sweers.
Sweers – video camera in hand, recorded the encounter. He can be heard berating Snoeyink about his intentions. Sweers gave the video to Grand Rapids police and also posted the encounter to the Internet.
In his lawsuit, Snoeyink says the video had been viewed by an estimated 674,000 people through early May.
Snoeyink claimed he was falsely portrayed as a child predator and “faces ridicule amongst the general public,’’ forcing him to hide his identity when venturing outside.
Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth in early May sent Sweers a letter that basically told him to knock it off.
“My office will not authorize any criminal charges based on your ‘YouTube encounters’ beyond those that have already been charged,’’ Forsyth wrote in the May 4 letter.
“There are several reasons for this decision, but they all spring from a concern for your safety and that of the community,’’ Forsyth wrote.