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Late Tuesday night, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced charges against Pennsylvania State Senator Mike Folmer including possession of child pornography.
Update 7:54am: Governor Tom Wolf has called for Sen. Folmer’s resignation, telling the Patriot-News’ Jan Murphy that, “The charges against Senator Folmer are disgusting and beyond comprehension, and show he has taken advantage of the trust and privilege afforded by the people of Pennsylvania. He should immediately resign.” Pennsylvania Auditor General Eugene DePasquale has also called for Folmer’s resignation.
Update 9:38am: Lebanon County Republican Committee Chairman Casey Long has also called for Folmer’s resignation. “The charges and accusations leveled against Senator Folmer are very serious,” said Long in an email statement. “Crimes against children are especially horrendous and those found guilty must be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law. While Senator Folmer has the right to defend himself, the best thing he can do for Lebanon County, the Commonwealth and the Republican Party is to resign immediately.”
According to the release, the investigation began following a tip from the microblogging and social networking website Tumblr, indicating that a user had uploaded an image containing child pornography using the site’s app.
The AG’s department said that investigators were lead to the Lebanon home of Folmer (R-Senate District 48). The release states that on Tuesday, the Office of the Attorney General’s Child Predator Section, Lebanon City Police Department, and the Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant that revealed images of child pornography on Folmer’s phone.
Authorities said that on Tuesday evening, Folmer was charged with Sexual Abuse of Children, Possession of Child Pornography, and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility.
Attorney General Shapiro announced the charges via Twitter in the tweet below:
“This defendant serves as a state Senator and was entrusted to honor and represent his community in the Pennsylvania Capitol,” said Attorney General Josh Shapiro in a press release.
“Tonight, our Office arrested Mr. Folmer for possession of child pornography and charged him with Sexual Abuse of Children, Possession of Child Pornography, and Criminal Use of a Communication Facility. I will continue to say it—no one is above the law, no matter what position of power they hold. I will continue to work to protect children and hold those who abuse them accountable.”
Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Angela Couloumbis reached out to Pennsylvania Senate leadership, with Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Senate District 25) and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman (R-Senate District 34) saying: “We are shocked to learn tonight of the allegations made against Sen. Folmer. We will fully cooperate with law enforcement regarding this deeply disturbing matter.”
The Republican leaders also announced that Folmer would be removed as Chairman of the Senate Stat Government Committee.
The Inquirer report also cites charging documents in which Folmer apparently told law enforcement, “that he had been dealing with personal problems and had received child pornography through his Tumblr blog,” according to the Inquirer.
LebTown independently reviewed these documents, which were posted to the State’s website. You can review them for yourself here (PDF, will open in new window).
The document states that the investigation began in March when a complaint from Tumblr to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children initiated an investigation into “at least one image containing suspected child pornography.” The image, said to be uploaded December 28, 2017, was described as depicting a child engaged in a sexual act with an adult. The affidavit describes an electronic trail that led from the Tumblr account to Folmer.
According to the document, law enforcement executed search warrants Tuesday morning, as well as making contact with Folmer at his Downtown Lebanon office, where he turned over his cellphone and agreed to return home. The document states that law enforcement advised Folmer of his Miranda Rights, and that Folmer stated he understood and was willing to speak with agents without an attorney present.
The complaint also states that, “During the interview, Michael Folmer admitted that the Tumbler account associated with the CyberTip was indeed his along with the identified email… Michael Folmer stated that he had been dealing with some personal problems/issues and that he had received child pornography through his Tumblr blog.”
According to the complaint, two images of apparent child pornography were discovered on Folmer’s phone during a computer forensics search. The complaint does not specify whether these images included the one that initiated the investigation.
As of this morning, the official Twitter and Facebook accounts of Folmer’s office have been deactivated.
“I am stunned,” said State Representative Russ Diamond (R-102) in an email to LebTown.
“I am unbelievably stunned and saddened by the news affecting Senator Folmer,” said State Representative Frank Ryan (R-101). “I would ask that we all reserve judgment, pray for him and his family. He has served our community well and I count him as a friend.”
“As we have needed him for so long, he and his family need our prayers and understanding while this sorts itself out.”
According to a report by WITF, the AG’s office said that Folmer’s bail was set at $25,000, but at the time of their article it was not clear whether he had posted it or remained in custody.
The general public reaction to the news so far in Lebanon County has been shock, as seen in comments on social media and elsewhere. While it’s important to note these are only charges, and Folmer has not been convicted of any crime, some community groups are using this as an opportunity to note that resources are available for those who may be affected by these allegations against a well-known community member.
Ali Perrotto, CEO of Lebanon’s Sexual Assault Resource and Counseling Center, noted in an email to LebTown that, “It’s hard for me, and most of us, to wrap our heads around the sense of betrayal that comes with allegations against a well-known community member.”
“SARCC is here to provide services and support to our community,” said Perrotto. “24/7 hotline support, Counseling, therapy, support groups, and advocacy are offered to any member of our community at no-cost.” Find more information about SARCC on their website.
LebTown has reached out to Folmer’s office but did not receive an immediate response. We plan to update this post or follow up with a new one later today, as this is a developing story.
Davis Shaver contributed to this article.
6:09am This article was updated with a quote from State Rep. Russ Diamond.
7:16am This article was updated to be less specific about the contents of the original image uploaded to Tumblr. These details, which may be disturbing for some readers, are available in the criminal complaint, linked above.
7:40am This article was updated with a quote from State Rep. Frank Ryan.
7:48am This article was updated with a quote from SARCC.
7:54am This article was updated with information about Gov. Wolf calling for Folmer’s resignation.
9:42am This article was updated with comment from Lebanon County Republican Committee Chairman Casey Long.