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July 12, 2016Fargo, ND, United StatesChild Exploitation

Former head of North Dakota medical school sentenced to 12 years in federal prison for possessing, distributing child pornography

FARGO, N.D. — The former chairman of the University of North Dakota's medical school was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 12 years in federal prison for possessing and distributing child pornography.

This sentence resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigation (HSI), the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation (BCI), the Grand Forks (North Dakota) Police Department, and the University of North Dakota Police Department.

Robert William Beattie, 56, of Grand Forks, North Dakota, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson to serve 12 years in federal prison, and to 10 years of supervised release. Judge Erickson also sentenced Beattie to pay a $200 special assessment to the Crime Victims' Fund, plus an additional $5,000 special assessment under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Beattie will also pay $10,000 in restitution to the victims depicted in the child pornography that he possessed.

"This lengthy prison sentence should serve as a serious warning about the consequences facing those involved in downloading child pornography," said Alex Khu, special agent in charge of St. Paul, Minnesota. "Every time these images and videos are viewed, the innocent victims depicted in them are violated again."

This case came to the attention of law enforcement after the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) informed HSI and the BCI that an Internet Protocol address in North Dakota was being used to trade child pornography.

A subsequent investigation revealed that the IP address was assigned to Beattie's office, which was located at the University's School of Medicine. Thereafter, law enforcement obtained search warrants for Beattie's office as well as his personal residence, where they recovered multiple media devices. Forensic examination of this material revealed 3,233 images and 100 videos of child pornography depicting children as young as 2 years old engaged in sexually explicit conduct. Assistant US Attorney Jennifer Puhl, District of North Dakota, prosecuted this case.

This investigation was conducted under HSI's Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI's Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.

Updated: 10/08/2020