Ex-Pennsylvania lawmaker pleads guilty in child porn case
LEBANON, Pa. (AP) — A former Pennsylvania state lawmaker charged last fall with possession of child pornography pleaded guilty Thursday.
Mike Folmer entered a guilty plea in Lebanon County Court to three counts of possessing child porn and one count of criminal use of a communications facility for having items on his cellphone.
Folmer did not comment as he left the courtroom, but told the judge he would have something to say at his sentencing hearing, scheduled for late May.
Folmer faces up to 10 years in prison, but his attorney Brian Perry said after Thursday’s hearing that he hopes the sentence will be far shorter.
Folmer also will be evaluated to determine whether he should be classified as a violent sexual offender under state law.
“The defendant was entrusted to represent and serve the commonwealth, but instead chose to participate in the sexual exploitation of children. No one is above the law,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro, whose office prosecuted Folmer, said in a statement issued after the plea.
Folmer was a sitting four-term state senator last September when police arrested and charged him, saying a search of his cellphone on a warrant had turned up images of child pornography.
Folmer promptly resigned and is now retired. Perry said Folmer has been engaged in counseling and treatment.
State prosecutor Christopher Jones said during Thursday’s hearing that Folmer possessed three images of nude children that depicted indecent contact. Folmer was forthcoming and cooperative when questioned by investigators, Jones told Judge Joseph Madenspacher.
As Folmer walked down a hallway with supporters to leave the courthouse after the hearing, he was confronted by a woman who said she was a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
Christi Daubert told Folmer that he deserved whatever punishment he would get.
Daubert said she had spoken with Folmer before he was charged as part of a push by victim advocates to lift time limits in state law for victims of childhood sexual abuse to sue perpetrators and institutions that covered it up. The Associated Press does not typically identify people who say they have been victims of sexual assault unless they give their consent, as Daubert has done.
Daubert, 56, who lives near Folmer, said she had had several conversations with Folmer, and that he had assured her that the law would change, but he did not follow up on promises to set up a meeting on the subject.
“I felt violated all over again,” Daubert said afterward. “It’s very upsetting to me that I was baring my soul to someone who commits the same violations against children.”
The investigation into Folmer, a Lebanon County Republican, had gone on for months, following a tip from an online social media provider, Tumblr.
Last February, Tumblr sent a complaint to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children that a user had uploaded at least one image that contained suspected child pornography in December 2017, according to court papers filed by the attorney general’s office in September.
Investigators then traced the Tumblr account to Folmer’s email address and home address, they said.