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A former West Manchester Township police officer has pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography.

Chad Richard Howell, 38, of Dillsburg, pleaded guilty Wednesday, April 3, in York County Court to four counts of possession of child pornography and one count of criminal use of a communication facility. The last charge is for using his cellphone to commit a crime.

All five offenses are third-degree felonies.

It was an open plea, meaning it will be up to presiding Common Pleas Judge Harry M. Ness to determine the appropriate punishment. 

Ness set Howell's sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. July 29 and ordered Howell to undergo a state sexual offender evaluation to determine whether he should  be deemed a sexually violent predator.

If he is, he will have to register with state police under Megan's Law for the rest of his life, according to deputy attorney general David Drumheller.

If Howell is not deemed to be a sexually violent predator, he will have to register as a sex offender under Megan's Law for 15 years, Drumheller said.

The background: Howell was fired from his position on March 8, 2017, according to Kelly Kelch, West Manchester Township manager.

Howell had been placed on unpaid administrative leave Feb. 23, 2017 — the day the township learned of the charges, Kelch has said.

Howell was a York City police officer until the summer of 2015. He was then hired by the West Manchester Township Police Department.

On Feb. 3, 2017, the attorney general's office received 14 cybertips reporting a user uploading an explicit image of a child, court documents state.

The website Pinterest had reported that users uploaded images in October and November 2016, with those users registered under Chad or Chad Howell, documents state.

Through a subpoena, the IP addresses of those accounts were found to be from Howell's home, the AG's office said.

Some of the uploaded images included girls as young as 8 years old, according to court documents.

Met with agents: Agents from the AG's office met with former West Manchester Township Police Chief Arthur Smith Jr. on Feb. 23, 2017, the day charges were filed, to set up a meeting with Howell as he was getting off duty.

While speaking with two agents from the AG's office, Howell consented to having his personal laptop computer and cellphone searched, documents state.

He also confirmed for agents that he used three of the four profiles mentioned as the ones that uploaded the child pornography, according to court documents. He admitted to using the names "howellycpd" "chrissmith4618" and "Howell103," the AG's office said.

When asked if officials would find child pornography on his phone or computers, Howell said, "I would like to say no, but I really don't know," documents state.

While doing a preview of Howell's iPhone, about 50 images of child pornography were found, the AG's office said.

"This was only a sampling of those images on Chad Richard Howell's Apple iPhone," documents state.

Additionally, agents from the AG's office searched Howell's home, documents state.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @LizScolforoYD.

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