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Former national news editor in Mass. is charged with possessing and sending child pornography

The former editor of a video-focused national news website has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, including a video he is accused of recording of a child he communicated with online.

Slade Sohmer, 44, who was editor-in-chief of The Recount until last month, was arrested at his home in Western Massachusetts on Friday and pleaded not guilty Monday in Southern Berkshire District Court to two counts each of dissemination and possession of child pornography.

During a search of Sohmer’s Otis home on Oct. 17, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force seized a phone from a nightstand that allegedly contained “hundreds of child phonography images and videos,” including one of a young boy being raped by an adult, according to an affidavit filed in court.

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Sohmer was released after posting $100,000 cash bail. He was ordered to have no contact with minors and prohibited from using the internet.

Sohmer’s attorney, Andrew Levchuk, declined to comment Tuesday.

In a court filing setting bail, Judge Danielle Williams wrote that Sohmer has ties to Pennsylvania, where he has worked for a “child’s camp.” She also noted that Sohmer does not have a criminal record and did not flee after his home was searched by police.

In court Monday, prosecutors said they plan to seek additional charges against Sohmer, according to The Berkshire Eagle, which initially reported on Sohmer’s arrest. The Berkshire district attorney’s office said in a statement Tuesday that the investigation remains ongoing due to the “extremely large number of pornographic materials found on the devices.”

According to his LinkedIn page, Sohmer had been working at The Recount for four years. The News Movement, which acquired The Recount this year, said in a statement Tuesday that, Sohmer “is no longer Editor-In-Chief of The Recount following a company restructure exercise in early October to focus on our editorial and commercial plans.”

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The investigation began after the messaging app Snapchat alerted the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s tip line in September 2022 that someone had used the app to send a video of a boy who appeared to be 11 or 12 performing a sexual act, according to a 26-page affidavit filed in court.

The center forwarded the tip to the Massachusetts State Police, triggering a subpoena by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office for more information about the IP address, ultimately leading to Sohmer, according to the affidavit.

During the search of Sohmer’s home last month, police seized various electronics and spoke to Sohmer, who gave them the passcode for his phone but then requested to speak to an attorney and ended the discussion, according to the affidavit by Hinsdale Police Sergeant Elizabeth Zipp.

Police also searched an account on the encrypted messaging app Telegram that they allege Sohmer was using to send child pornography, according to the affidavit.

Investigators found a “multitude” of chat threads on the app in which “the topic of discussion revolved around sexual exploits of young boys,” the affidavit says.

Sohmer allegedly used the app to send 53 videos that were flagged by investigators as potential child pornography, according to the affidavit.

Police allege that Sohmer talked about wanting to rape children while communicating with someone on the Telegram app in 2021, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit alleges that Sohmer told someone on Telegram that “a couple years back” he “baited” a 14-year-old boy by posing as a teenage girl. Sohmer allegedly said he told the boy to meet him on a street corner, and the boy showed up — but Sohmer said he “chickened out” and did not engage with him, the affidavit alleges.

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Sean Cotter can be reached at sean.cotter@globe.com. Follow him @cotterreporter.