After two years of court proceedings, Alvin Keller, 59, of Dickinson was sentenced to 10 years in prison, with 7 years suspended, on Monday for promoting a sexual performance by a minor, a Class B felony, in a hearing at the Stark County District Court.
Keller admitted to using a tablet to take nude photographs of a 5-year-old family member. Upon discovering the photographs on the tablet, Keller’s wife Lisa notified law enforcement.
The father of the child testified in court saying that he and his wife adopted the toddler when they were removed from the custody of the parents by the State of North Dakota. According to the father the couple allowed Lisa and Alvin Keller, who are related to the child, to babysit the child once or twice a week.
“We wanted to try and maintain that family relationship,” the father testified.
According to the adopted father, the child's life has been permanently damaged by the incident.
“(The child) still remembers things related to what happened. (The child) gets dressed in a closet now,” the father said. “I think this will have a lifelong negative impact on (them).”
Keller expressed remorse for his actions, but insisted he did not take the photos for nefarious reasons.
“I made a very stupid mistake,” he said. “I am very sorry.”
Keller claims he repeatedly told the child to get dressed, but the child would not listen. He claims his wife Lisa didn’t believe him, so he took the pictures with a tablet to prove that the child was removing its clothing.
The adopted father said he does not believe that.
“This doesn’t add up and there’s a problem here,” adding that he wanted to see Keller sent to prison.
According to Judge Rhonda Ehlis, some of the photographs were very close-up to the genitalia of the child.
Keller’s attorney, Diane Melbye, argued that this was an isolated incident and said there was no indication Keller would be a repeat offender. In her request that Keller be spared jail time she instead requested the courts grant a one to two years probation — making an analogy that a dog doesn’t get locked up after the first time it bites someone.
Ehlis rejected the argument.
“There is no free bite at the apple when it comes to child pornography,” Ehlis said before issuing the sentence. “There was no reason to take some of the photos that I saw, absolutely none.”
State’s Attorney Amanda Engelstad, who prosecuted the case, said Keller was also found to be in possession of other child pornography photographs dated to 1999. Engelstad also said she believed Keller took the pictures of the 5-year-old “for his own sexual gratification.”
“There were approximately seven printed photographs that depicted what I would consider child pornography. There was also a magazine, I believe in the home that depicted child pornography,” Engelstad said.
She added that at one point in the proceedings, Keller admitted he was holding onto these materials to see if he could “make some money off of them."
Ehlis sentenced Keller to 10 years in the North Dakota State Penitentiary, with seven years suspended and three years of supervised release. Upon release Keller has to register as a sex offender and will not be allowed to use the internet unless it is for work and approved by his probation officer. Credit was given for the two and a half months served in jail.
Engelstad said there is no mandatory minimum sentence for this particular felony, so Keller could be released on parole for good behavior as state prison officials see fit.
Keller asked that the court allow him a week to get his affairs in order prior to heading to prison — a request denied by Ehlis who said that with cases like this she has seen too many examples of criminals fleeing the state, harming themselves or posing a threat to the public.
Remanded to the custody of the Stark County Sheriff’s Department for transportation to the North Dakota State Penitentiary, Keller will begin his sentence immediately.
According to the State's Attorney Office and court records, Keller has an extensive and violent criminal record including an arrest in 1981 in which he was charged and ultimately convicted of armed robbery. In 1996 and 2009, Keller was charged with simple assault with at least one of those cases involving domestic violence.