Peshtigo man pleads to child exploitation

By: 
Shirley Prudhomme

PESHTIGO – In Green Bay Federal Court on Friday, May 31, Zachary Zastawniak, 24, of Peshtigo, entered a plea of guilty to a federal child sexual exploitation charge. Sentencing is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 20.

Court records indicate that Zastawniak was charged in Federal court for getting one minor to send him a sexually explicit photo, and then for trying to get a different victim to do the same thing.

Zastawniak also faces 26 felony charges in state court, including child enticement, soliciting a child for prostitution and sexual assault. A pre-trial conference is scheduled for Friday, June 14 in that case, which is being handled in Oconto County Circuit Court.

The 26 charges against Zastawniak in Oconto County include use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, soliciting a child for prostitution, second degree sexual assault of a child, trafficking of a child, felony bail jumping, threats to communicate derogatory information and numerous charges involving possession of child pornography.

In a Brown County case dating back to 2018, Zastawniak, then 17 years old, was given a deferred sentence of two years of probation after pleading guilty to child sexual exploitation. A deferred prosecution agreement hearing on those charges is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. Tuesday, July 9 in the Brown County Courthouse, Room 330.

In regard to the more recent federal court proceedings, Gregory J. Haanstad, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, announced on January 23, 2024, that a federal grand jury had returned a two-count indictment alleging that Zastawniak sexually exploited or attempted to sexually exploit two minors.

According to the indictment, on or about July 7, 2023, and again on August 23, 2023, Zastawniak knowingly “employed, used, persuaded, induced, and coerced two minors... to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction … of [the victims] engaged in the lascivious exhibition of [the victims’] genitals.” Zastawniak faces a mandatory 15 years’ imprisonment and up to 30 years’ imprisonment and could also be fined up to $250,000 on each count.

The case was investigated by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Division of Criminal Investigation, the North Fond du Lac Police Department, Oconto Falls Police Department, Oconto Police Department, Oconto County Sheriff’s Office and the Kingsford, Michigan, Department of Public Safety and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Daniel R. Humble.

The federal case against Zastawniak was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006, by the U.S. Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals, who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

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