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Former UND chair pleads guilty in child porn case

FARGO - A former UND department chairman facing federal child pornography charges pleaded guilty Monday.Robert William Beattie, 56, was charged in federal court last August with one count of receipt and distribution of materials containing child ...

Robert William Beattie
Robert William Beattie

FARGO – A former UND department chairman facing federal child pornography charges pleaded guilty Monday.

Robert William Beattie , 56, was charged in federal court last August with one count of receipt and distribution of materials containing child pornography and two counts of possession of materials containing child pornography.

But through a plea deal Beattie signed Feb. 2, he pleaded guilty to the first charge and one of the possession of materials charges Monday in federal court in Fargo. The other possession charge will be dismissed at sentencing, according to the plea deal.

Beattie faces a maximum sentence of 40 years in prison and $500,000, but prosecution "will recommend a sentence at the low end" of sentencing guidelines, the plea deal states. He does have a five year mandatory minimum sentence for receipt and distribution of materials containing child pornography, though.

Beattie is scheduled to be sentenced 10 a.m. July 12, and he'll remain out of jail and on electronic home monitoring until the hearing.

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Police began investigating Beattie after receiving a tip in June from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children regarding Internet Protocol addresses associated with Beattie.

Investigators determined Beattie uploaded child pornography last year to the online site Padlet on May 15 and June 23 and to a Google photo platform on June 11, according to a factual basis read in court Monday.

Beattie explained he used his work computer to download child pornography and transferred it to a jump drive before erasing the pornography on his work computer to avoid being detected, according to the basis.

He was arrested Aug. 6 when Grand Forks police officers searched his office and his home, finding more than 800 sexually explicit pictures and videos of children ranging in age from 1 to 14 years old on Beattie's flash drive and computer. A USB drive, hard drive and Amazon Fire phone were seized from Beattie and are being held by the Department of Homeland Security, according to court records.

Beattie was released from jail Aug. 24 and has been out of custody on electronic home monitoring at his Cushing, Minn., home leading up to his sentencing. Beattie, a father of seven and a grandfather of nine, was permitted to be around children under the age of 18 years old provided another adult is present.

But Judge Ralph Erickson decided Monday that Beattie is to have no overnight visits with grandchildren. That's a condition the prosecution asked for at Beattie's initial release, Beattie's attorney Peter Welte said, but because of "extraordinary circumstances" regarding two of Beattie's children's health, the judge allowed Beattie to have overnight visits.

"But they weren't comfortable with the conditions of release remaining the same since he has now pled guilty to a crime, unlike before," Welte said.

Beattie was placed on administrative leave shortly after he was arrested. He was hired as the chairman of the Family and Community Medicine Department at the UND School of Medicine and Health Services in 2006, but he is no longer employed by UND.

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Beattie voluntarily turned over his medical license to the South Dakota Board of Medical and Osteopathic Examiners in light of the charges, and on Nov. 20, the North Dakota Board of Medicine suspended Beattie's license to practice medicine in the state indefinitely.

Beattie originally faced 10 counts of possession of child pornography, Class C felonies, in Grand Forks District Court, but those were dismissed in September after Beattie's federal indictment.

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