Prosecutor to discontinue use of ‘Anxiety War’ videos as evidence against accused sex predators

Posted at 5:09 PM, May 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-04 18:45:31-04

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The man behind the “Anxiety War” vigilante-like justice videos, designed to catch alleged sexual predators, told FOX 17 he’s not stopping, despite the Kent County prosecutor stating they will no longer use his videos as evidence.

Wednesday, Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth issued a letter to Zach Sweers, 23, asking him to stop his “freelance law enforcement and leave this to professionals.”

Sweers told FOX 17 he works full-time at his day job and said he doesn’t want to be a cop, but is continuing to lure and catch accused sexual predators.

In his latest video posted to Anxiety War’s site April 30, Sweers and his brother, who openly carried a firearm, confronted their latest alleged predator.

Walking up to the man’s car window, Sweers pushed, “Are you serious? You know exactly why I’m here. Exactly. You sent me a photo wearing that, you thought I was a 14-year-old girl and you wanted to have sex.”

It’s his latest publicly shared sting operation working on his latest catch: luring accused sex predators after texting and chat room conversation posing, in this case, as a 14-year-old girl.

Recently these videos, given to police,landed seven men with felonies, but Forsyth and Grand Rapids Police said no more.

In his letter Forsyth wrote to Sweers: “what you are doing can be dangerous.”

He highlighted the last video stating by having someone assist you who was openly carrying a firearm can allow anyone to “easily mistake the situation for a robbery, extortion attempt, or other crime, and respond with a weapon of his own.”

Forsyth went out to write that all of this could “undermine your credibility” in court, stating “the defense will likely argue that ‘you are so intent on proving your point that you would do anything, including falsifying evidence, to further your vigilante campaign.’”

FOX 17 also spoke with lawyer and Distinguished Professor Emeritus Curt Benson who discussed several ethical issues here.

“I really appreciate the dilemma that the prosecutor is in because after all, somebody brought to him evidence of a very, very serious crime,” said Benson. “And a prosecuting attorney although in theory has the discretion to say, look I’m not going to pursue this, you can’t ask any prosecutor to say I’m just going to ignore evidence of a very serious crime.”

Benson said the crux of this dilemma is not whether this is credible evidence, rather if it will be admissible in court.

“As in this case, you’re playing amateur police officer, amateur detective, you’re gathering evidence, I promise you they’re not gathering the evidence in such a way that it’s going to be admissible,” said Benson.  “It requires a certain level of expertise that the lay public doesn’t have that the police officers do.”

Another underlying issue: this behavior, Benson, said puts Sweers and the accused at risk, especially publicizing their identities online.  He doesn’t doubt copycats are already off and running.

“The cat’s already out of the bag and the local prosecutor and the local police can say well this is how we’re going to proceed, but it’s already out there,” said Benson.  “I can promise you that there’s going to be more people doing this.”

FOX 17 also spoke with Sgt. Terry Dixon with the GRPD who reiterated: they do not condone this behavior, and if the prosecutor is not using these videos as evidence, then police aren’t either.

When asked why the seven previous men were charged  but no further charges will be issued from Anxiety War evidence, the prosecutor’s office declined comment and deferred to their letter.

Benson said the cases of the seven men facing felonies are in negotiations. He said it’s unlikely any of the evidence in those cases will be admissible into court, and believes it’s a matter of time before those accused men sue Sweers.

In response to this update, Sweers posted the following message on his Facebook page: