Biggest local stories of 2021: Former East Helena police chief pleads guilty to child porn charge

Nolan Lister

The East Helena Police Department imploded in 2021, culminating in former Police Chief William Daly Harrington admitting to distributing child pornography via social media in U.S. District Court in Missoula on Dec. 7.

Harrington pleaded guilty to one count of distributing child pornography. The government will seek the dismissal of two additional counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography if the court accepts the terms of a plea agreement in the case.

Harrington faces a mandatory minimum of five to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine and five years to a lifetime of supervised release.

Chief U.S. District Judge Brian M. Morris presided and set sentencing for April 13, 2022. Morris will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

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.

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