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Mike Folmer, former state senator, pleads guilty to 3 child porn charges, awaits sentencing

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 2/27/20

Former state Sen. Michael Folmer pleaded guilty this morning in Lebanon County Court to three counts of possession of child pornography.

Folmer, who represented the 48th District, is to be …

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Mike Folmer, former state senator, pleads guilty to 3 child porn charges, awaits sentencing

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Former state Sen. Michael Folmer pleaded guilty on Feb. 27 in Lebanon County Court to three counts of possession of child pornography.

Folmer, who represented the 48th District, is to be sentenced May 26 before Judge Joseph C. Madenspacher, a Lancaster County judge who was assigned to handle the case. In the meantime, he is out on bail.

On Sept. 17, he was charged with six counts of possession of child pornography and two counts of criminal use of communication facility by the state attorney general’s office, following an investigation by the AG’s office in which authorities executing a search warrant found two images of apparent child pornography on Folmer’s iPhone, according to the criminal complaint.

He also pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of criminal use of communication facility — using a cellphone or other electronic device in committing a crime.

The charges are all felonies.

“I’m at the mercy of the court,” Folmer told Madenspacher at one point during the proceedings, according to PennLive.

Folmer on Sept. 18 resigned from the 48th District state Senate seat he had held since January 2007. Folmer was first elected to the seat in 2006 and was re-elected in 2010, 2014, and in 2018.

In Dauphin County, the 48th includes Highspire, Londonderry Township, Middletown, Lower Swatara Township, Royalton and Steelton; as well as Conewago and Swatara townships and Paxtang.

In a special election Jan. 14, Republican and former Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold was chosen by voters to fill the vacant seat and complete the remainder of Folmer’s term. He defeated Democrat Michael J. Schroeder.

“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. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said on his office’s website.

A spokesman for Shapiro declined further comment and would not say what type of penalty the office plans to recommend.

A call to Folmer's attorney, Brian Perry, was not returned.

The AG’s investigation into Folmer began after officials received a “CyberTip” reporting that an electronic service provider, Tumblr, discovered that a user had uploaded an image of child pornography using their application.

That image was uploaded on Dec. 28, 2017, according to the criminal complaint. It was not until Feb. 5, 2019, that the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received the complaint from Tumblr about the image, and authorities opened the case on March 4, 2019.

On Sept. 17, 2019, the Office of Attorney General’s Child Predator Section, Lebanon City Police Department, and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security executed the search warrant in which the two images of apparent child pornography were found on Folmer’s iPhone.

After his arrest, Folmer admitted that the Tumblr account associated with the CyberTip was his, along with the email address associated with the account, according to the complaint.

Folmer admitted to authorities that “he had been dealing with some personal problems/issues and that he had received child pornography through his Tumblr blog,” according to the criminal complaint filed in the case.

Investigators found no evidence that Folmer had participated in the creation of child pornography, or that he had actively engaged in distributing it, PennLive reported. The images were all on personal devices, not on Folmer’s state-issued phone.

Folmer was widely known as “Marijuana Mike” for his push to legalize medical marijuana in the state. He first was elected to office in 1986, on the Lebanon City Council. His family owned a fruit and produce store in Lebanon.

Folmer won’t be getting a state pension because he was not a member of the Pennsylvania State Employees’ Retirement System, SERS spokeswoman Pamela Hile told the Press & Journal.

Most state employees are mandatory SERS members, but a few are optional members, Hile said.

These include the governor, lieutenant governor, members of the General Assembly, legislative employees, the budget secretary, department heads or deputy heads, members of independent administrative boards or commissions, and members of department boards or commissions.