Former Fla. "Officer of the Year" sentenced in child porn case

Michael Harding

CBS Miami

MIAMI - A former police officer who in 2011 was the "Officer of the Year" in his department was sentenced Monday to life in prison for producing and distributing child pornography, reports CBS Miami.

Michael Harding pleaded guilty in February to three counts of possession and distribution of material involving sexual exploitation of minors, attempting to coerce and enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity and production of child pornography.

Harding, who won the "Officer of the Year" award for his work as a Port St. Lucie Police Department officer, posted pictures and videos to a chat room depicting children engaging in sexually explicit acts on multiple occasions in 2015, according to court documents.

On Sept. 22, homeland security agents executed a federal search warrant at Harding's home and seized his computer, cell phone and a thumb drive. An analysis found they contained hundreds of pictures and videos of children engaged in sex acts with adults.

Harding, 28, also attempted to coerce and entice a minor to engage in sexual activity over the internet. Chat messages stored on his phone show a conversation he had with another person in which both people claimed to have custody of children who they would trade for sexual activity, documents say.

According to court records, Harding used his cellphone to shoot a video depicting his sexual contact with a child under the age of 12. Chat messages also located on the phone corroborated that the image on the phone depicted the abuse of the minor child.