GREAT FALLS – The former East Helena chief of police today admitted allegations that he distributed child pornography in 2019 using social media, U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said.
William Daly Harrington, 43, pleaded guilty to distribution of child pornography. Harrington faces a mandatory minimum five years to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to a lifetime of supervised release.
A plea agreement in the case calls for the government to seek the dismissal of three other counts in an indictment if the court accepts the agreement.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and set sentencing for April 13, 2022. Chief Judge Morris will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. Harrington was released pending further proceedings.
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 Facebook Messenger account distributing child pornography belonged to Harrington. Account records showed that on Dec. 17, 2019, Harrington sent 11 images using Messenger to another account. Some of the images depicted child pornography. On Jan. 27, 2021, a search warrant was served on Harrington’s residence in Lewis and Clark County. Law enforcement seized Harrington’s cellular phone, which was analyzed and found to contain images and videos of child pornography. Harrington admitted that he owned and used the Facebook Messenger account that distributed child pornography.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Cyndee L. Peterson and Wendy A. Johnson are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations.
This case was initiated under the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood initiative, which was launched in 2006 to combat the proliferation of technology-facilitated crimes involving the sexual exploitation of children. Through a network of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and advocacy organizations, Project Safe Childhood attempts to protect children by investigating and prosecuting offenders involved in child sexual exploitation. It is implemented through partnerships including the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The ICAC Task Force Program was created to assist state and local law enforcement agencies by enhancing their investigative response to technology facilitated crimes against children.