William Harning appeared via video in Cascade County District Court on Wednesday, October 4, 2023, for his arraignment.
The former Great Falls High School teacher, charged with half a dozen counts of sexual abuse against children, entered his plea and a trial date was set.
Harning pleaded not guilty to six counts of sexual abuse of children.
According to court documents, the case dates to December of 2021 when the principal alerted Great Falls police that Harning sent an inappropriate picture to a 17-year-old student.
While Harning was speaking with the police, his phone, which was left unattended, was seized by the police.
Harning chose not to make a statement and was released.
After getting information from the juvenile student, police obtained a search warrant for Harning's phone.
Police enlisted the help of the Montana Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation.
Due to heavy backlog of cases, the phone could not be searched until May of 2023.
In August, an outside medical professional determined that six of the photos were sexually explicit images of Harning and children between the approximate ages of 5 and 16.
Great Falls Superintendent of School Tom Moore told MTN when the case first became known, the district took immediate action, placing Harning on administrative leave. Harning resigned and GFPS turned all their information over to the state Office of Public Instruction, which summarily suspended Harning’s license in the summer of 2022.
Each felony count carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a ten thousand dollar fine.
District Judge John Parker set Harning's trial date for Monday, January 29. A pre-trial status hearing in the case is set for January 17.