[Trigger warning for descriptions of sexual violence.]
In 2003, prep school graduate and UVA sophomore Zachary Jesse raped a young woman as she slumped unconscious across a toilet. He penetrated her anally and vaginally, leaving visible injuries and taking her virginity. Zach pleaded guilty to sexual battery and served a three-month sentence.
After Zach’s ugly past came to light, gaming company Wizards of the Coast decided to suspend his membership and ban him from official Magic: The Gathering tournaments, where Zach had become a well-known figure.
The Magic: The Gathering community was outraged. Not because was a rapist in their midst, but because there wasn’t one. They want Zach back.
Yes, Magic: The Gathering fans have rallied around Zach, demanding that Wizards of the Coast reinstate his membership and let him come to official tournaments so that he can play cards with other humans, some of which are female and probably don’t feel terrific about being in a one-on-one match against someone who forced his penis into an unwilling woman’s vagina.
Zach himself has spoken out about the ban and presented his case (on Reddit, of course), and it reads a little bit like Humbert Humbert’s narrative in Lolita. Zachary Jesse shows absolutely no remorse for his behavior, nor does he even appear to understand that what he did was wrong. He writes:
I was 18 (very close to 19) in August of 2003 when the underlying incident occurred.
Note the language Zach uses here: “when the underlying incident occurred.” Not “when I committed that terrible crime.” This is how Zach refers to the act of raping an unconscious woman: a thing happened. He never acknowledges the enormity of his deeds, or accepts any personal responsibility for his behavior. He speaks as if this were an act of God, instead of a crime that he chose to commit upon another human being.
Later, he writes:
The plea deal entailed pleading guilty to aggravated sexual battery and serving three months of an eight-year sentence. Its start date was delayed to allow me to finish my semester at UVA. The sentence also allowed me to serve my time in a work release program so that I could continue the internship that I had been preparing for months.
Not only was his sentence laughably short (three months!), but it was delayed so as not to inconvenience him. And that sentence wasn’t even a proper jail sentence. It was a work release program, which allows a prisoner to leave prison during the day. All Zach had to do to serve that sentence was to sleep in a prison at night.
For raping a woman, Zachary Jesse had to sleep in an uncomfortable bed for a few months. Meanwhile, Eric Garner was choked to death for selling cigarettes. Being rich and white is awesome!
How did Zach get such a light sentence? It might have to do with the fact that his lawyer was a member of Troutman Sanders, an international law firm that represents ultra-rich businesspeople and multinational corporations. That, along with the prep school background, suggests that Zach’s parents are quite wealthy.
Rich family, prep school graduate and rapist? Zachary Jesse is literally the villain in a 1980s slobs vs. snobs comedy. Only instead of committing mean pranks against Jim Belushi, he commits heinous crimes against unconscious women.
Zach goes on to describe how he got married, then went to law school. It’s more than a little odd that he opted to do the latter, seeing as a criminal record can prevent a person from becoming a lawyer. It’s almost as if he believed he was exempt from any negative consequences resulting from his actions:
In 2011, I applied to law school. Perhaps I was (and still am) naïve, but this vocation felt poetic. I ultimately decided to attend the University of Richmond. I had written my application on my conviction, how it had affected me, and how I meant to use it as a stepping stone to better myself and the community around me rather than a ball-and-chain.
What an inspirational story! Good on Zach for refusing to let a little thing like guilt or remorse stop him from leading a charmed life!
Zach wrote his entrance essay about his conviction (not his crime, but his conviction), and as a result was rewarded by the school with $30,000 scholarship.
Thirty thousand dollars. For raping a woman.
Remember: Zach’s sole punishment for his crime thus far was to spend three months in pretend jail. Then he was awarded a $30,000 prize for outstanding achievements in rape. Thirty thousand dollars is considerably more than the average American earns in three months.
Overall, raping an unconscious woman was a net gain for Zachary Jesse. He had to sleep on a smelly mattress for a while, but then he got paid $30,000. Society has rewarded Zechary Jesse for committing rape. The most serious consequence he has had to suffer for raping a woman has been getting kicked out of a Magic: The Gathering tournament. No wonder he is so devastated. It’s literally the worst thing that has ever happened to him.
After the Richmond Law School gave Zach his $30,000 rape prize, the young man went on to become a justice on his school’s Honor Council. Then, in 2012, his civil rights were restored to him. I reiterate: being rich and white is super great. I highly recommend it.
Then Zach lists his many noble deeds: community service, volunteer work, and so on. Community service is obviously a good thing, but it can also be used by scheming sociopaths to build power and influence in order to enable abuse. Zach’s volunteer work has earned him a position on his local neighborhood board. He has also been appointed neighborhood liaison with the local university (VCU), and he heads a task force to beautiful his local neighborhood. In other words, he’s gaining power and influence. Maybe Zach has a good side, or maybe he’s taking a page from John Wayne Gacy’s strategy book. If he starts dressing up like a clown, watch out!
Zachary finishes his non-pologia with all of his self-awareness proudly on display:
Finally, to more squarely address the ultimate issue: there has never been an allegation of sexual impropriety levied against me at any Magic: the Gathering related event. To those of you that feel unsafe, I can sympathize. Understand though that I am allowed to go to concerts, to ride down bike trails, to otherwise interact with people on a daily basis in the outside world, just as other people with my criminal stigma are allowed to do.
Believe me when I say this: women understand very well that they have to share the world with sexually violent men. That’s why rape whistles exist. Women generally don’t have a choice but to interact with large, terrible men. That’s why, when women do have a choice, they tend to choose social gatherings without convicted sexual predators in them. That’s why Wizards of the Coast banned you, Zach: so that female players could let their guard down and have a good time in peace. Wizards of the Coast has decided that making its female players feel safe is more important than making you feel good about your rape conviction.
Unfortunately, the Magic: The Gathering community disagrees with that decision. An alarming number of people involved in the community find it easier to empathize with a rapist than with a woman. Every post about Zach on Reddit’s Magic: The Gathering subreddit explodes with overwhelming support for the rapist.
Many reserve their ire for Drew Levin, the person who publicized Zach’s rape conviction, rather than for the convicted rapist:
Others claim that Zach’s drunkenness absolves him of responsibility for his crime. Isn’t it funny how getting drunk means a guy is not responsible for committing rape, but getting drunk means a woman is responsible for being raped?
Many argue that Zachary Jesse has paid his debt to society and served his time. Reminder: his time was three months in gluten-free substitute jail, and his debt to society was negative $30,000.
Reminder: Zach’s life is not ruined. His life is pretty awesome in fact, significantly more awesome than that of many people who haven’t raped anyone. He’s rich and successful and married. Being banned from a card game club is not life-ruining. Being disinvited from a social event is overall an extraordinarily mild punishment for violently raping someone’s anus.
This guy blames MISANDRY for Zach’s persecution:
— Reformed Samurai (@ReformedSamurai) July 3, 2015
This guy can’t imagine the reason why Wizards of the Coast would ban a convicted rapist from Magic: The Gathering tournaments:
This creature is proud to see that his community has rallied around a rapist:
#ZachJesse situation.. first anger at the insanity of the decision, then relief/pride that the community reacted angrily.
— Michael Martin (@Shoctologist) July 2, 2015
Will Zachary Jesse be unbanned? Probably not. Despite its toxic community, Wizards of the Coast is pretty enlightened about LGBT issues and tries to make its events less hostile to women. Reversing its decision would be a public relations disaster outside of the broken funhouse mirror world of geek tribalism. The outraged Magic: The Gathering players will Tweet angrily, shake their fists in impotent rage, probably send death/rape threats to any Wizards of the Coast employees who happen to be women or people of color, and possibly join up with Gamergate. And they’ll keep buying the cards and playing the game anyway. As a palate cleanser, I leave you now with a voice of sanity in the wilderness:
Everyone defending the rapist, is coming across as a huge misogynist/sociopath. #zachjesse
— Eric Simard (@RealEricSimard) July 3, 2015