A Goleta man was sentenced Thursday to four years in state prison after pleading guilty to child-molestation, child-pornography and other charges.
The prison term imposed on Zachary A. Warburg, 32, by Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Adams was the result of a plea agreement with Santa Barbara County prosecutors late last year.
Warburg, who had been free on bail, was immediately remanded into custody at the end of the sentencing hearing, according to Deputy District Attorney Sarah Barkley.
Warburg originally was arrested in March 2019 on 17 felony and eight misdemeanor charges involving multiple victims.
The crimes occurred mainly in the spring of 2018, although some allegations date back to 2015, with victims ranging from 11 to 17 years old, according to the criminal complaint filed against Warburg.
The allegations included lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14 years old; annoying or molesting a child under 18 years old; possession or control of child pornography; attempted sexual penetration with a foreign object; contacting a minor with intent to commit a sexual offense; and attempting to dissuade a victim or witness.
Under the agreement reached with prosecutors at a Nov. 30 court hearing, Warburg pleaded guilty to four felonies and three misdemeanors, Barkley said.
He was sentenced Thursday to a total of 7 years and 8 months in state prison, but some of the terms will run concurrently, meaning his actual sentence is 4 years.
Under state law, he will have to serve 85% of that — 3 years and 5 months — before he is eligible for parole, Barkley said.
Two of the felonies Warburg pleaded guilty to — lewd and lascivious behavior with a child under 14 and dissuading a witness — will count as strikes under the state’s Three Strike’s law, Barkley said.
Warburg also pleaded guilty to felony charges of possessing child pornography and attempting to contact a minor to commit lewd acts.
There were 24 charges in the criminal complaint filed against Warburg — 19 felonies and five misdemeanors — but the remaining counts were dismissed at sentencing under the plea agreement.
In addition to the prison term, Warburg must register as a sex offender, Barkley said.
A software developer, Warburg also worked as a freelance photographer, shooting breaking news incidents such as fires and vehicle crashes. His photos of those incidents often appeared in Noozhawk before May 2018.
The criminal investigation in the case began after a school resource deputy at San Marcos High School was notified by a student that Warburg was “attempting inappropriate communications with her of a sexual nature,” according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators uncovered several alleged instances of criminal behavior between Warburg and minor female students at local area high schools and junior highs, as well as students out of the area.
Warburg’s case moved slowly through the criminal-justice system, largely due to court delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
There were no statements made at the sentencing hearing by Warburg or any of his victims, Barkley said.
Warburg previously read a statement of apology at the Nov. 30 hearing during which he pleaded guilty.