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Attorney argues former UND chairman, charged in child porn case, already punished before sentencing

After an arrest, charges and guilty pleas, a federal judge will hand down a sentence to Robert Beattie Tuesday. But his attorney, in arguing for a minimal sentence, argues in court papers that Beattie already has received a harsh penalty, includi...

After an arrest, charges and guilty pleas, a federal judge will hand down a sentence to Robert Beattie Tuesday.

But his attorney, in arguing for a minimal sentence, argues in court papers that Beattie already has received a harsh penalty, including the loss of his job, family and medical licenses.

Last August, the former University of North Dakota chairman of the Family and Community Medicine Department was charged in federal court with one count of receipt and distribution of materials containing child pornography and two counts of possession of materials containing child pornography.

Instead of going to trial, Beattie agreed in February to a plea deal and pleaded guilty the next month to the first charge and one of the possession of materials charges.

He appears this morning before Judge Ralph Erickson in Fargo federal court to receive his sentence.

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Before a sentencing, there’s a process in the courts to decide how long Beattie might have to spend before bars. A judge looks at a guideline range based on the person’s crime. There’s also a pre-sentence investigation report that looks at a person’s criminal history, the likelihood of re-committing a crime and the nature of the offense among other criteria.

Given Beattie’s circumstances, the prosecution is recommending Beattie serve 210 to 262 months, roughly 17½ to 22 years. But last week, Beattie’s attorney, former Grand Forks County state’s attorney Peter Welte, filed a memorandum arguing Beattie should be sentenced at the low end of the guideline range and that he should be able to serve his sentences concurrently.

“Beattie does not object to the charge and the conviction,” Welte said in the memorandum. “Beattie does, however, assert to this court that the offense in this matter is out of character for him, and does not define who Mr. Beattie truly is.”

When Beattie was arrested last August, investigators found more than 800 sexually explicit pictures and videos of children ranging in age from 1 to 14. That discovery led to a series of repercussions, including losing his job at UND and his medical licenses in three states.

In last week’s memorandum, Welte said Beattie paid for his crimes and wrote:

“The real question is: what is a just punishment for this offense? In law school, students are taught that criminal justice requires two components to a sentence; punishment and rehabilitation.

“Mr. Beattie’s actions have cost him his position as chair of the UND Medical School’s Department of Family and Community Medicine, a position that carried with it a $339,000 annual salary.

“His actions have cost him his license to practice medicine in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

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“Mr. Beattie’s actions have cost him his marriage of 36 years to his high school sweetheart. Mr. Beattie’s actions have caused immeasurable pain to his seven children. … His actions have cost him contact with his 10 -- so far -- grandchildren, and his reputation within the medical community.

“These costs cannot be measured in terms of years in a correctional facility; they are lifetime sentences to components of a sentence that is not meted out by this court. Mr. Beattie has been punished, and any sentence this court renders will enhance the terms of an already substantial punishment.

“But Mr. Beattie is not broken. He still has the love and respect of his friends and family, as evidenced by the character letters on file with the court. And he still has both his faith and a tremendous will to live. A sentence below the guidelines would give this 56-year-old man an opportunity to redeem himself while he still has time here on earth.”

While the defense is arguing for a lesser sentence, Beattie is not diminishing the seriousness of his charges, Welte said.

“To reiterate, Mr. Beattie is not making excuses for his conduct. He is responsible for his actions,” Welte said. “But he is also profoundly remorseful, has been cooperative and compliant in this entire investigation, and he is also a man who has -- save for the time period during which these crimes were committed -- led an exemplary and extraordinary life. He has much to offer this world, and he wishes to do so after he serves his debt to society.”

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