Anthony Michael Durham, 67, pled guilty on Thursday to 17 counts of child molestation, which could land him in prison for life. Arrested in September, the 2008 Lompoc Man of the Year is guilty of 14 counts of sexual contact with a child younger than 10 years old, and three counts of lewd or lascivious acts with a child younger than 14. The incidents involved two children younger than 11 years of age, said prosecutor Stephen Foley with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office.
Durham’s arrest came after a report of a “crime against children” committed by a former police volunteer, Lompoc PD reported in September. Residents said his arrest shocked many in the city. Durham was known for his big hugs, and he supported opening City Council meetings with prayer, which was ultimately voted down. Long associated with law enforcement, the retired CHP officer worked as a crime prevention specialist for the county Sheriff’s Office for about five years and volunteered as chaplain to both the police and fire departments in Lompoc. He worked with high schools presenting the “Every 15 Minutes” drinking and driving program.
Durham was appointed interim city councilmember in 2009 after Mayor Dick DeWees died in office. He took the position saying he would “draw on his ethics as a policeman while serving on the council,” reported the Santa Maria Sun at the time. The paper further reported that Durham said, “I’m about as black and white as the car I drove for 31 years. Right is right and wrong is wrong.” Current Lompoc mayor, Bob Lingl, who served with him on the council previously, said Durham would have been “way at the bottom of the list” of townspeople whom he would have pegged for these crimes. The mayor expressed relief that the guilty plea has prevented “dragging the victims through a trial.”
Durham faces 45 years to life at sentencing, which takes place February 23 in Lompoc Superior Court. The potential length of his term reflects the “severity of his conduct,” which Foley described as “grotesque” and “adult,” and the youth of his victims. “Considering his age, this proposal is essentially a life sentence,” Foley said, since Durham will not be eligible for parole until age 112.