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Former East Helena police chief accused of distributing child pornography

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Posted at 2:06 PM, May 25, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-26 15:24:51-04

GREAT FALLS — Former East Helena Chief of Police William Daly Harrington made his initial appearance in court on Tuesday on a criminal complaint accusing him of distributing child pornography, Acting U.S. Attorney Leif M. Johnson said in a news release.

The criminal complaint alleges that Harrington, 42 years old, distributed child pornography.

According to the criminal complaint and affidavit, in September 2020, a law enforcement officer began investigating a Cybertip to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s CyberTipline, a national reporting system for the online exploitation of children.

The court documents alleged that the investigation led to a Facebook account that used a fictitious name and was created and controlled by Harrington, who was the East Helena chief of police. The documents further allege that Harrington distributed child pornography to the Facebook account of another individual on numerous occasions.

East Helena Police Chief William Harrington
East Helena Police Chief William Harrington

U.S. Magistrate Judge Kathleen L. DeSoto presided. Harrington was detained pending further proceedings. Harrington voluntarily surrendered and was taken into custody by the FBI.

Harrington resigned as police chief in early March, and city documents indicate it came after he was accused of sexual assault. Harrington had worked for the East Helena Police Department for more than a decade and was named chief in 2019. He had also served as acting chief after each of his two predecessors left the department.

If convicted of the child pornography charge, Harrington could face up to five to 20 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and five years to life of supervised release. The news release notes that the criminal complaint is only an accusation, and Harrington is presumed to be legally innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The FBI, Lewis & Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Bozeman Police Department, and Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force investigated the case.