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A Michigan National Guard veteran says Hillsdale County and state author­ities wrongly forced him to reg­ister as a sex offender, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Wiki­media Commons

In the lawsuit — filed against Hillsdale County, the Hillsdale County Sheriff’s Office, a deputy, a former assistant pros­e­cutor, three Michigan State Police troopers, and two Michigan Sex Offender Reg­istry ana­lysts — Andrew Fether, 31, con­tends he never com­mitted a sex-related crime and that the false accu­sation led to a six-month jail sen­tence and unwar­ranted suf­fering. He is seeking relief for com­pen­satory, punitive, and exem­plary damages.

Fether said while serving in Iraq from 2006 to 2007, a “dis­gruntled ser­vice­member” accused him — as a prank — of having child pornog­raphy on his laptop.

Per U.S. mil­itary pro­tocol, a mil­itary intel­li­gence agency and the FBI con­ducted an inves­ti­gation. According to the lawsuit, both agencies dis­pelled the charges soon after, finding no evi­dence to prove the servicemember’s claim.

The lawsuit stated a Michigan State trooper told Fether in 2010 that he was required to reg­ister as a sex offender, due to a “con­viction for a sex crime” shortly after he moved to Hillsdale County.

According to the lawsuit, law enforcement decided to place Fether on the Michigan Sex Offender Reg­istry list “in spite of the fact that no con­viction had ever occurred, or recorded or doc­u­mented in any way.”

Hillsdale County Sheriff Tim Parker could not be reached for comment, and a spokes­woman for the Michigan State Police said law enforcement cannot comment on ongoing lit­i­gation.

The lawsuit said an inves­ti­gation — con­ducted under Hillsdale Pros­e­cutor Neil Brady — jus­tified law enforcement’s decision to list him as a sex offender by accusing Fether of a sex crime. Fether refused to reg­ister, however, because he said he had never been charged or arrested in con­nection with the Iraq incident.

This led to Fether’s arrest in 2011, for failure to comply with the Michigan Sex Offender Reg­istry Act, which is a felony. A judge told Fether that if he pro­vided the mil­itary paperwork proving he had been falsely accused, he would con­sider Fether’s case. When Fether could not find the doc­u­men­tation, he pleaded no contest to a mis­de­meanor, after Brady agreed to drop the felony charge.

He again ignored the requirement to reg­ister as a sex offender with the HCSO, con­tending it was an unfounded demand. He was arrested again in July 2014 with a felony offense for failing to reg­ister. Fether once again pleaded no contest and was charged with another mis­de­meanor; he was sen­tenced to 180 days in jail, the lawsuit states.

According to the lawsuit, Fether was released when U.S. Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, looked into the charges and failed to find a charge or con­viction against the plaintiff.

“The FBI informed the Con­gressman that no such con­viction existed, and that nothing, including any war­rants for a sex offense, had ever been added to the National Crime Infor­mation Center, in spite of the fact that the defendant claimed to rely on NCIC infor­mation, in listing Fether as a sex offender,” the lawsuit reads.

Hillsdale County Dis­trict Judge Sara Lisznyai had Fether removed from the sex offenders list imme­di­ately after. Brady told MLive that his office dropped two reg­istry-related con­vic­tions after it became clear the accu­sa­tions weren’t true, and that Fether is no longer on the Michigan Sex Offender Reg­istry list. Brady said that no one looked closely at Fether’s case because it was atypical.

“No one knew about it,” he said. “This was out of state. It was in the mil­itary. It was unusual.”

Fether could not be reached for comment.

In the lawsuit, Fether con­tends that he has still had to face the neg­ative effects of the false accu­sation, citing his daughter’s school function in May 2017 that the school pro­hibited him from attending.

Fether accused state offi­cials of vio­lating his con­sti­tu­tional rights and said they forced him to suffer “degra­dation, humil­i­ation, mental anguish, emo­tional suf­fering, and embar­rassment and other psy­cho­logical and emo­tional injuries, past and future.”

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Kaylee McGhee
Kaylee McGhee is a senior at Hillsdale College, majoring in Politics with a minor in Journalism. This is her fourth year writing for the Collegian and she serves as the paper's Opinions Editor. Kaylee worked in Washington D.C. last year and wrote for the Weekly Standard. Her work has also appeared in the Detroit News and the Orange County Register. Follow her on Twitter: @KayleeDMcGhee email: kmcghee@hillsdale.edu