Lawmaker facing child porn charges resigns from Pennsylvania Senate

Nora Shelly, Lebanon Daily News
Mike Folmer's booking photo.

LEBANON, Pa. – Pennsylvania state Sen. Mike Folmer, a four-term Republican from Lebanon County, resigned Wednesday after he was charged with possession of child pornography.

Calls for him to quit after the charges were announced late Tuesday were swift and far-reaching, including a scathing rebuke from Gov. Tom Wolf, who said, "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.”

Hours after that statement was issued, the 63-year-old Folmer stepped down. By mid-afternoon, references to him had been scrubbed from pages of the state senate website and his 48th District seat was listed as vacant.

Even before that he had been stripped of his role as chairman of the state government committee and his Facebook and Twitter pages appeared to have been deactivated.

Calls to Folmer and his office were not returned Wednesday.

Mike Folmer: Child porn found on phone of Pennsylvania state senator, prosecutor says

Senate Republican leaders announced Folmer's resignation midday Wednesday. Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman said in a statement they reviewed the criminal complaint against Folmer and talked with him Wednesday morning to "insist on his resignation."

"We are sickened and disturbed by the charges brought against Mike Folmer yesterday," they said.

Agents from the state attorney general’s office charged Folmer Tuesday night after images of child pornography were found on his phone by police who searched his home after obtaining a warrant.

The investigation began after a tipster reported that someone had uploaded an image of child pornography to the social networking website Tumblr.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s criminal complaint against Folmer further details the charges.

In February, Tumblr notified the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children that a user had uploaded an image depicting child pornography in December 2017.

According to the criminal complaint, the account that uploaded the image was associated with a Yahoo email address that included the names "Jay" and "Michael." Jay is Folmer's middle name, according to the complaint.

A special agent with the Attorney General's Child Predator Unit began investigating the image in March, according to the complaint, and eventually was able to associate the email address with a phone number and Folmer's home address.

A search warrant was issued Tuesday for Folmer's home, according to the complaint, and was executed at about 10:30 a.m. At the same time, an agent from the attorney general's office went to Folmer's office in Lebanon .

Folmer reportedly told the agent in the attorney general's office and an agent with the Department of Homeland Security that the Tumblr account that posted the picture was his, and that he had been "dealing with some personal problems/issues" and had received images of child pornography through Tumblr.

Folmer was charged with possession of child pornography, sexual abuse of a child and criminal use of a communication facility.

Under Pennsylvania law, the lieutenant governor in his role as head of the state senate has 10 days after a seat is vacated to schedule a special election.

A spokesperson for Lt. Gov. John Fetterman said Wednesday that there are no definite plans yet for a special election to fill Folmer's seat. According to the statute, the election cannot be held sooner than 60 days from when the election notice is issued.

A native of Lebanon, Folmer was first elected to the Pennsylvania senate in 2006 and was re-elected to his fourth term last November.

This article originally appeared on Lebanon Daily News: Michael Folmer: Facing child porn charges, Pennsylvania senator resigns