Michael Folmer, former state senator, sentenced to just less than two years on child porn charges, avoids state prison

4 min read3,007 views and 724 shares Posted July 21, 2020

Michael J. Folmer was sentenced on Tuesday morning to one year minus one day minimum to two years minus two days maximum, the result of pleading guilty in February to three felony charges of possession of child pornography and one felony charge of criminal use of a communication facility.

A former four-term Republican senator for Lebanon County and an architect of the state’s medical marijuana law, Folmer had faced ten years in state prison on each of the four charges.

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Because the maximum sentence is a day less than two years, it is a local sentence and can be served in the Lebanon County prison. Had the maximum been set at at least two years, Folmer would have gone to a state prison under Pennsylvania law.

Deputy Attorney General Chris Jones, representing the Commonwealth, had asked for a state sentence, pointing out that his office had already given Folmer a break by agreeing not to ask for consecutive sentences of up to 40 years.

Read More: Folmer enters guilty plea to child porn charges, faces up to 10 years in prison

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Read More: AG charges State Sen. Mike Folmer with possession of child pornography

Visiting Lancaster County Senior Judge Joseph Madenspacher told Folmer that he was imposing a local sentence from the “mitigated” sentencing guideline range, by a single day, based largely on the 64 year old Folmer’s remorse, acceptance of responsibility, submission to counseling for a pornography addiction, and the good life he had otherwise led.

Madenspacher pointed out that the General Assembly had raised minimum sentencing guidelines for child sex offenses out of a recognition that they were too lenient and that child pornography was not a victimless crime. “I think you may have voted for that yourself,” he told Folmer.

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Calling Folmer “a good man who did bad things,” Madenspacher told Folmer that when he committed his crimes as an elected official, “you violated the trust of your community,” and that “you probably interacted with your constituents’ children.”

After completing his jail time, Folmer will be on 8 years of consecutive probation. He may not have unsupervised contact with young children.

A sexual offender assessment concluded that Folmer is not a sexually violent predator, but he will still be required to register for 15 years as a sex offender under the Sex Offender and Registration Notification Act.

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Folmer’s request for an extension of time to report to the Lebanon County prison was denied by the judge, and he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs by Sheriff’s deputies after saying good bye to his wife.

Perry noted that, while Folmer would initially be placed in Lebanon County prison on a local sentence, he may not be eligible for work release there, as a sex offender. Judge Madenspacher allowed for a transfer to another county prison, as long as the two wardens agree.

“I am purely at your mercy. I am the one at fault.”

Standing before the judge in a simple blue suit and open collared white shirt, Folmer admitted to the judge that he had a pornography addiction by the time of his arrest on September 17, 2019, and that “when I was arrested, I said that I had sinned greatly and ‘Lord, forgive me for offending you.'”

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“I had been praying,” he added, “Lord, do whatever you can to take this from me.”

He told the judge that he is undergoing counseling for his addiction. “I’m in a healing process. By God’s grace I’m having great success,” and that “by going to counseling I’m understanding my sinful nature.”

He concluded by telling Judge Madenspacher “I am purely at your mercy. I am the one at fault.”

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Internet activity led to detection and arrest

Folmer was arrested on Sept. 17, 2019, after a search of his home turned up a phone containing pornographic images of children. When arrested, he admitted that he received the images on his phone.

He resigned from the senate the next day under intense pressure from Governor Wolf and both parties in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. His senate seat was filled by former Lebanon County District Attorney David Arnold in a special election held in January, 2020.

Read More: Republican Dave Arnold elected to fill remainder of Folmer’s state Senate term

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According the Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro, the investigation started with a tip from the social networking website Tumblr that a user with the screen name “hoser44” and an email address of “jaymichael143@yahoo.com” had uploaded an image containing child pornography.

Through a series of subpoenas to AT&T and several internet services, investigators traced the origin of the uploaded pornographic photo to an internet account and phone number registered to Folmer at his home address.

Folmer’s political career

The 30 minute sentencing hearing before Judge Madenspacher marked the end of a startling fall for the 64 year old legislator who had chaired the state senate’s State Government committee and was a driving force behind the 2016 enactment of Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana law.

Folmer represented the 48th state senatorial district, consisting of Lebanon County plus small parts of Dauphin and York Counties. He was first elected in 2006, and last won reelection in 2018, with 63% of the vote.

He began his political career as a Democrat in 1986, serving a single two year term on Lebanon City Council.

Folmer worked in the private sector for the next 17 years, largely in the produce industry, including for his Lebanon-based, family-owned fruit and produce business. He later worked as a salesman for a local tire service company.

He remained politically inactive until 2005, when a public uproar over a legislative pay raise led him to successfully challenge, this time as a Republican, incumbent state Senator David Brightbill in the 2006 Republican primary. He went on to defeat Democrat John Liss in the fall general election.

Folmer was re-elected in 2010, 2014, and 2018, never by less than a 25% margin. His fourth and final term came despite a first term campaign pledge to fight for a three term limit on state legislators. Folmer said he changed his mind about term limits because he still had things to accomplish.

Folmer’s legislative positions were generally conservative, favoring limited government spending and low taxation. He had chaired the state senate’s State Government Committee, which oversees elections and other functions relating to government operations, since 2015.

Folmer made headlines in 2016 when he co-sponsored Senate Bill 3, which eventually passed and was signed into law by Governor Tom Wolf. The bill established a statewide medical marijuana program and allowed citizens that have been certified by a doctor to purchase marijuana from a dispensary.


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