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Complaint outlines child porn charges against doctor, UND chairman

GRAND FORKS - A judge set bond at $25,000 Friday for a UND department chairman charged with 10 felony counts of possessing child pornography. Assistant State's Attorney Thomas Gehrz had recommended bond be set at $150,000 for Robert William Beatt...

Robert William Beattie
Robert William Beattie
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GRAND FORKS – A judge set bond at $25,000 Friday for a UND department chairman charged with 10 felony counts of possessing child pornography.

Assistant State’s Attorney Thomas Gehrz had recommended bond be set at $150,000 for Robert William Beattie, 55, who was arrested Thursday in his office at the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“We believe the risk to the community is high,” said Gehrz, who also asked Beattie have no Internet access for the duration of his criminal proceedings and have no contact with any person under the age of 18 as conditions of the bond.

Beattie, a medical doctor, is chairman of the UND Family and Community Medicine Department. He has been placed on administrative leave.

Police executed a search warrant at Beattie’s office, where officers say he admitted to having child pornography on a flash drive in his computer on his desk, according to a criminal complaint filed with Grand Forks District Court. Officers reviewed the images on the drive and found sexually explicit pictures and videos of children.

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Gerhz added Beattie would be considered a flight risk, noting a “For sale” sign was present in the lawn of his home and his high yearly income gives him the ability to flee. In 2014, Beattie made $330,086, according to a list of UND employee salaries provided to the Herald last year.

Peter Welte, Beattie’s attorney, asked for a more reasonable bond. He said Beattie was not a flight risk and had significant ties to the community and the university.

“His flight ability is severely impeded,” Welte said. “I’d argue, your honor, he’s actually less of a risk of flight because of his role at the university. He’s not going anywhere.”

Welte asked Judge John Thelen not to include the condition of no contact with individuals under the age of 18 as Beattie is a father of seven and a grandfather to nine.

“This would be a particularly onerous condition,” Welte said, adding Beattie’s house being for sale and his salary shouldn’t be factors in determining bond.

Ultimately, Thelen set a $25,000 bond with the condition of no Internet access.

Arrest

An investigation into Beattie began when police received a tip in June from the the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Internet Protocol addresses associated with Beattie.

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A search warrant was served at Beattie’s home and workplace, according to the criminal complaint written by Cpl. Caitlin Stromberg, the investigating officer in the case.

In his office, Beattie admitted to having child pornography on a flash drive plugged into his computer. The flash drive contained 724 pictures and 100 videos, Gehrz said during the hearing.

“A majority of the individuals depicted where 8 years of age or under,” he said.

The criminal complaint notes the images and videos showed what appeared to be children ranging in age from 1 to 14 years old engaging in sexual acts with adults or other children.

Beattie told officers the images were collected from online chat rooms, the complaint said.

The 10 possession of child pornography charges are all Class C felonies, each of which carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If convicted, Beattie also would have to register as a sex offender.

A preliminary hearing for Beattie has been set for 9 a.m. Sept. 11.

Related Topics: CRIMEEDUCATION
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