Second Officer Arrested on Child Porn Charges

     Port St. Lucie, Fla. (CN) – A former “Officer of the Year” is the second Treasure Coast policeman to face child porn charges in recent months.
     Officer Michael Edwin Harding of the Port St. Lucie police department was arrested Tuesday and charged with receiving, distributing and possessing child pornography.
     The officer “faces a mandatory minimum term of 5 years in prison and maximum statutory sentence of 20 years,” federal prosecutors said.
     Harding was tracked down by undercover agents after he anonymously uploaded explicit images of preteen girls into a chatroom, using the cell phone application Kik Messenger, the arrest affidavit states.
     Timestamps from Harding’s police vehicle log indicate Harding uploaded some of the images while he was on duty, the affidavit says.
     A search warrant was executed at the officer’s home on Sept. 22, and inside a gun case in the master bedroom closet, agents found a thumb drive containing “hundreds of images and videos of children,” as young as 6, “engaged in sexually explicit conduct,” the arrest affidavit says.
     Harding’s next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 30.
     According to municipal records, he was named “Officer of the Year” in 2011 by the Fort Pierce police department, where he worked before transferring to the City of Port St. Lucie.
     His arrest came roughly a week after retired master deputy Cameron Bates, a veteran of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, was sentenced to 20 years following his retrial on child porn charges, in a criminal case separate from Harding’s.

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