GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A defense attorney is challenging the email transcripts provided to authorities by the West Michigan vigilante who recorded his confrontations with alleged sexual predators and posted them online.
Seven men were criminally charged after Zachary Sweers gave authorities copies of the videos he posted to his YouTube channel, Anxiety War, as well as records that he says document his online conversations with them while he posed as an underage girl.
The email transcripts, which were made public Wednesday in court documents, purport to show what one of the accused men, Zachary Snoeyink, wrote after Sweers responded to a Craigslist ad he allegedly posted in January.
In one of the emails, Snoeyink allegedly wrote to the person he thought was a teen, “You know your not legal age right? I dont have an issue with it just letting you know.”
He also allegedly sent a picture of himself.
What Sweers said in that exchange was not made public in the case file.
Snoeyink’s attorney said the emails may have been doctored.
“There’s the emails that Mr. Sweers gave to the police in a transcript form and then there’s the emails that the police recovered from the email account of Mr. Sweers using his password. And they’re different,” Andrew Rodenhouse, Snoeyink’s attorney, said Wednesday.
Rodenhouse is defending Snoeyink in his criminal case, which is separate from the civil lawsuit Snoeyink has filed against Sweers. He says the emails Sweers provided aren’t reliable and he’s filing to have them thrown out as evidence.
“It can be hacked by anybody,” Rodenhouse said. “It would have appeared to have been altered. And so we’ve never seen the original data in its native format. We’ve never been provided with that. We’ve asked for it. We’ve never received it.”
“Those are all issues for trial,” Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker said in response to those claims. “That’s why you have trials. If there is editing, if there is things taken out of context, we have to provide discovery to the defense, just like they have to provide for us.”
Becker says these cases involving Sweers are the first of their kind.
“What makes these so different? Well we’ve never had anybody like try and do this on their own. I mean that’s the biggest thing and that’s the message we try to get out to everybody is that we don’t see this at home because it’s very dangerous,” said Becker.
Another of the men charged in connection to Sweers’ videos, Phillip Crawford, was in court for trial this week. Closing arguments are set for Thursday morning, after which the case will be in the hands of the jury.
Only one of the cases linked to Sweers’ video has been wrapped up. In that case, Andrew Russell entered into a plea deal and was sentenced to probation.
In addition to the lawsuit Snoeyink has filed, Sweers also faces a lawsuit filed by another man seen in one of his videos; that man does not face criminal charges.
The videos showing the confrontations with the alleged predators are no longer public on his YouTube channel.