Ex-East Helena police chief sentenced to more than five years in prison for distributing child pornography
GREAT FALLS — East Helena’s former chief of police was sentenced today to five years and six months in prison, to be followed by five years of supervised release, for distributing child pornography using social media, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.
William Daly Harrington, 43, of Helena, pleaded guilty in December 2021 to distribution of child pornography.
Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided. Chief Judge Morris also imposed $7,500 in fines. Harrington was ordered to self-report to the Bureau of Prisons.
“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 Laslovich said.
"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."
“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.
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, who was the chief of police for East Helena. Account records showed that on Nov. 17, 2019, Harrington sent 11 images to another account. Some of the images depicted child pornography. 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. As part of his investigation, the ICAC detective consulted with a pediatrician who concluded that some of the images depicted prepubescent children or children under the age of 12 years old.
Harrington admitted that he owned and used the Facebook Messenger account that distributed child pornography.
The government further alleged that Harrington was a mandatory reporter of child abuse, and, during the same timeframe, he sought out sexually explicit images of children, saved them to his phone and then distributed them. As chief of police, Harrington attended Child Protection Team Meetings, knew the consequences to the children depicted and, nonetheless, pursued the images at the expense of child victims.
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.
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.