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A 71-year-old Howard County man pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography Tuesday in Howard County Circuit Court, according to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office.

Robert Awtrey, of Ellicott City, was arrested after a search warrant was executed on his house on May 29, and county police said officers discovered three USB drives in a safe in the basement that included illegal images.

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According to the Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office, the search warrant came after the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children received a tip that pornographic images were being downloaded to a computer owned by Awtrey.

Prosecutors are recommending a sentence of five years, suspending all but six months. Awtrey must register as a Tier 1 sex offender, and may not have unsupervised contact with minors, both conditions of his plea agreement.

“Sadly, the children in these photos are being exploited and Mr. Awtrey’s viewing of these photos contributes to the abuse of children for sexual gratification. Our office is pleased with the guilty plea and hope Mr. Awtrey recognizes how his behavior has a profound impact on these vulnerable victims,” State’s Attorney Rich Gibson said.

Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 28.

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