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Former East Helena Police Chief sentenced to 5 years for child pornography charge

William Harrington
Posted at 6:00 PM, Jun 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-16 20:00:15-04

HELENA — Former East Helena Police Chief William Daly Harrington, 43, has been sentenced to five years and six months in prison for the distribution of child pornography.

Harrington pleaded guilty in December 2021 and was sentenced Thursday, June 16 by Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris. The government dropped two of the three distribution of child pornography charges and one count of possession of child pornography in a plea deal with Harrington.

Morris also imposed $7,500 in fines and Harrington will have five years of supervised release after prison time has been served.

“As a career police officer and then as chief of police, Harrington had a duty to protect children, and yet he distributed child pornography. His actions perpetuated the sexual exploitation of children and harm inflicted on vulnerable victims. This sentence holds Harrington accountable not only for his criminal conduct but also for his breach of the public’s trust. I want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cyndee L. Peterson and Wendy A. Johnson and all of our law enforcement partners for their work on this case,” U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

Harrington was named the Chief of the East Helena police in 2019. At the time, he had been on the force for more than a decade and previously served two terms as the interim police chief.

The City of East Helena placed Harrington on leave on February, 3, 2021, after Harrington was accused of an unrelated sexual assault. East Helena leaders contacted the Montana Department of Justice Division of Criminal Investigation to conduct an investigation and brought in an outside law firm to investigate Harrington's workplace conduct.

Roughly a month later, on March 4, 2021, East Helena Mayor James Schell notified the public safety officer standards and training council of the allegation. Harrington resigned from the department the following day.

On May 25, 2011, Harrington was charged with distributing child pornography in federal court. He surrendered to the FBI and was taken into custody.

"Crimes against children are horrific, and this case was aggravated by the fact that William Harrington took an oath to protect and serve," said Dennis Rice, Special Agent in Charge of the Salt Lake City FBI. "The FBI is committed to protecting society's most vulnerable and will hold those who prey on innocent children accountable."

The government alleged in court documents that in September 2020, a Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s deputy, who is a member of the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, investigated a tip that Facebook Messenger had reported one of its accounts distributed child pornography to another account. The investigation determined that the account distributing child pornography belonged to Harrington. Law enforcement served a search warrant on Harrington’s residence and seized his cellular phone. An analysis of the phone found it contained images and videos of child pornography.

Harrington admitted that he owned and used the Facebook Messenger account that distributed child pornography.

“We appreciate the partnership of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that the FBI leads. We appreciate the City of East Helena assistance with this investigation as well,” said Lewis and Clark County Sheriff and Coroner Leo C. Dutton.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cyndee L. Peterson and Wendy A. Johnson prosecuted the case, which was investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, Homeland Security Investigations, Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office and the Bozeman Police Department.