By Katharine Wilson and Nene Narh-Mensah
Ex-College Park Mayor Patrick Wojahn was arrested on 56 counts of child pornography charges earlier Thursday, according to the Prince George’s County Police. Wojahn submitted his resignation Wednesday night.
Prince George’s County Police issued a search warrant on Wojahn’s residence on Feb. 28. Wojahn said he is cooperating with law enforcement in his resignation letter.
“I am stepping away to deal with my own mental health,” Wojahn wrote in the letter.
The charges — 40 of which are for possession of child pornography and 16 of which are for distribution of child pornography — come after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted police to a Kik account possessing and distributing suspected child sex abuse materials, according to police.
The content was uploaded to the account — which investigators discovered belonged to Wojahn — in January, Prince George’s County Police Chief Malik Aziz said at a news conference Thursday.
During the Tuesday search warrant, Wojahn confirmed to authorities that the Kik account in question was his account, according to court documents. The documents also said Wojahn “advised that he has viewed and possessed files depicting child pornography.”
The documents describe multiple videos on the account that contain child sexual abuse material with prepubescent boys and older men.
The charges combined carry a maximum sentence of 360 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, according to charging documents. But in these types of cases, the sentence is usually reduced significantly after a plea agreement is reached, said Brett Lacey, a University of Maryland lecturer in the criminology and criminal justice department.
While searching Wojahn’s residence, the department recovered multiple cell phones, a storage device, a tablet and a computer, Aziz said.
The police chief said he believes there will be additional charges in the case, but the investigation is still ongoing.
Jessica Garth, the chief of the special victims and family violence unit at the State’s Attorney’s office, said Wojahn is currently being held at the county’s corrections department. A commissioner will determine whether he will receive a bond, be held or released on pretrial release, Garth said.
If he is not released, Wojahn will see a judge at a hearing that will most likely happen on Friday, Garth said.
The former mayor, who filed his resignation Wednesday evening after business hours, said he stepped down to not serve as a distraction to the city.
Wojahn was the mayor of College Park since 2015 and served as a College Park City Council member from 2007 until 2015.
City council member Denise Mitchell will serve as the presiding officer until a new mayor is elected.
“I have great trust in the ability of Mayor Pro Tem Mitchell, the City Council and our staff to carry forward what we have accomplished,” Wojahn wrote in his resignation letter.
A special election to appoint a new mayor will be held within 65 days as per the city charter.
The city said in a statement it is shocked and disturbed by the charges and the information that came to light in the investigation was a “total surprise.”
The council voted at an emergency meeting Thursday night to remove the former mayor from all boards, committees and positions.
Video reporter Jenna Bloom contributed to this story. This story has been updated.
CLARIFICATION: This story’s headline has been updated to clarify that Mayor Patrick Wojahn submitted his resignation before he was arrested.