Hearing on deleted texts in child abuse case
A freelance photographer accused of child abuse will learn Tuesday whether he will continue to have cellphone access while out on bail.
Zachary Warburg, 28, will appear before Judge Brian Hill in Santa Barbara County Superior Court.
He is charged with communicating with a minor with intent to commit sex crimes or other felonies, possession of child pornography, sending harmful material to a minor with intent of sexual gratification, attempted sexual penetration by foreign object, dissuading a witness from reporting a crime, and annoying or molesting a child under 18.
The charging documents allege the offenses occurred from 2015 through spring 2018. The victims’ ages range from 11 to 17.
Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Karapetian said Mr. Warburg faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted.
He pleaded not guilty on March 29 and was released on $1 million bail shortly thereafter.
During an Aug. 13 preliminary hearing setting conference, Judge Hill revealed that a pre-trial release report prepared by County Probation Department officials determined that Mr. Warburg deleted a string of text messages from his cellphone.
Prosecutors say those messages contained a conversation with one person, but it is not clear how officers determined messages were deleted. Judge Hill declined to revoke Mr. Warburg’s cellphone access until further investigation was conducted. He is expected to make that decision on Tuesday.
On June 11 Judge Hill gave Mr. Warburg permission to use a cellphone for work purposes, but that privilege came subject to search and seizure terms.
Judge Hill and Mr. Warburg’s attorney Jeff Chambliss discussed Mr. Warburg being limited to a “dumb phone,” or a cellphone without internet access, but Mr. Warburg told his attorney he was unable to find one. It’s unclear if the phone he was using had internet access.
Mr. Warburg was arrested on March 26 after a months-long investigation by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department.
The investigation began when a sheriff’s school resource deputy assigned to San Marcos High School was notified by a student that Mr. Warburg “was attempting inappropriate communications with her of a sexual nature.”
The sheriff’s office opened an investigation and discovered several other instances of suspicious, lewd and suspected criminal behavior occurring between Mr. Warburg and minor female students at local high schools and junior high schools, as well as out of the area.