A Goleta man charged with multiple felony counts of child molestation and child pornography will be sentenced to four years in prison after entering guilty pleas under an agreement with Santa Barbara County prosecutors.

Zachary A. Warburg
Zack A. Warburg

Zachary A. Warburg, 32, was arrested in March 2019 on 17 felony and eight misdemeanor charges involving multiple victims.

The offenses 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 an agreement reached with prosecutors on Nov. 30, Warburg pleaded guilty to four felonies and three misdemeanors, Deputy District Attorney Sarah Barkley told Noozhawk on Friday.

He will be sentenced to a total of 7 years and 8 months in state prison, but some of the terms will run concurrently, meaning his actual sentence will be 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.

Warburg, who remains out of custody on bail, will return to Santa Barbara Superior Court on Jan. 5 to be sentenced by Judge Brian Hill.

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 possession of child pornography and attempting to contact a minor to commit lewd acts.

There were 24 charges total — 19 felonies and five misdemeanors — filed against Warburg, but the remaining counts will be dismissed upon sentencing, Barkley said.

In addition to the prison term, Warburg will have to register as a sex offender, Barkley said.

A software developer, Warburg also worked as a freelance photographer, shooting breaking news 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 out of the area.

Warburg’s case moved slowly through the criminal-justice system, largely due to delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Barkley said.

She added that Warburg read a statement of apology at the Nov. 30 hearing during which he pleaded guilty.

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Tom Bolton, Noozhawk Executive Editor

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at tbolton@noozhawk.com.