A former West Manchester Township police officer was sentenced to three months in jail and three years probation after pleading guilty to possessing child pornography.
Chad Howell, 39, who now lives in North Carolina, will also have to register as a sex offender under the sentence imposed by York County Judge Harry Ness Tuesday.
Howell had faced some 50 counts of possession of child pornography after forensic investigators with the state Attorney General’s office found images depicting children in sexually exploitative poses on his cellphone.
He pleaded guilty to four counts of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communication facility, notably his cellphone, in April.
Prior to his sentencing, Howell sat outside the courtroom, fidgeting with a pen and reading over paperwork. He did not speak during the sentencing.
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His lawyer, Timothy Barrouk, had asked Ness to sentence Howell to probation, noting his client’s record of community service as an EMT and police officer and his work with a missionary group in India and with a toy drive for law enforcement families. Barrouk noted that Howell has moved to North Carolina, where his wife, who has stuck with him through his arrest and journey through the court system, had moved for a job.
“He has done a lot for the community,” Barrouk told the judge. “It certainly doesn’t take away from what happened here…but it should be taken into consideration.”
Deputy Attorney General David Drumheller asked Ness to impose a sentence that would require Howell to serve time in state prison, citing the heinous nature of the crime. Child pornography, he said, “perpetuates a market for the abuse of children.”
Ness, before imposing sentence, had some harsh words for Howell.
“By all accounts, you have been an exemplary citizen,” Ness said. “Yet there was a dark side.”
Ness noted that in a letter to the court, Howell had written that “it’s important for an individual to take responsibility for his actions.”
“Any adult male knows this can get you into trouble,” Ness said. Being a police officer, the judge said, Howell had to know that his behavior was “illegal and irresponsible.”
The pre-sentence investigation form, Ness said, has a section to list victims of the crime. In Howell’s report, the probation officer wrote “none.” Ness took objection. “When this kind of crime happens, we’re all victims. When you viewed this material, children were harmed.”
The judge said, “Their harm was your pleasure. My role is to speak for them.”
The judge then sentenced Howell to three to 23 months in York County Prison, with three months served in jail and three months on house arrest, and three years probation. Howell is also required to register as a sex offender for 15 years.
Howell was ordered to report to prison on Jan. 6.
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