District pediatrician facing child porn charges is denied release from jail

Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post - A sign on the door on May 9 of the office of pediatrician Robert P. Dickey, who was charged with possesion of child pornography.

A beloved District pediatrician who was arrested this month for allegedly possessing child pornography kept a far more extensive collection of troubling images on his computer than previously disclosed, according to court testimony Thursday.

Prosecutors said Robert Dickey viewed graphic sexual photographs of young children in an office adjacent to the rooms where he conducted exams of thousands of patients of similar ages at his Southeast Washington practice.

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“Dr. Dickey has been hiding in plain sight for years,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Ari Redbord said. “The very trust those people have in him is what makes him so dangerous.”

A magistrate judge rejected Dickey’s request Thursday to be released under intensive monitoring, saying there were no assurances that the doctor would not continue looking at porn on the Internet.

Despite Dickey’s long-standing professional reputation, Magistrate Judge Alan Kay said, the volume of images found on his computer suggested that he “has a problem, and I don’t think he can control it.”

Testimony in the U.S. District Court in Washington included
evidence from the government of a vast collection of about 30,000 images of child “erotica” and nearly 200 images of child pornography. In the original criminal complaint, law enforcement officials said the FBI had found 14 pornographic images on the doctor’s computer.

Dickey is charged with downloading and possessing child pornography and faces penalties ranging from five to 20 years in prison. Prosecutors have said there is no evidence that any of Dickey’s patients were the subject of the pornography or that he had abused any of them.

The doctor’s wife, children and a handful of parents of longtime patients stood by Dickey in court on Thursday. Since the late 1970s, Dickey has served families in the District’s poorest neighborhoods, where access to health care has been limited.

Parents described Dickey riding his bicycle to make house calls, answering the phone at all hours and being an attentive listener. Robert Bell, an architect in the District who took his five children and a grandchild to Dickey’s practice, compared him to an idyllic pediatrician out of a Norman Rockwell illustration.

“We could have gone anywhere, but we kept going back to Dr. Dickey, because he’s the one,” said Elizabeth Teferra, a teacher from Capitol Hill who took her children and grandchildren to Dickey’s practice. “I’m devastated. We just miss him.”

Dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit, Dickey sat quietly during the hearing as prosecutors described, sometimes in graphic detail, the allegations against him. He smiled broadly at the parents who testified on his behalf.

The FBI searched Dickey’s first-floor office and arrested him on May 8 after being tipped off by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which tracked an Internet download to his computer. When agents arrived, prosecutors said they found Dickey lying on the floor beneath his computer. On the computer screen was a Russian Web site dedicated to child erotica and child pornography, according to prosecutors.

Dickey was scheduled to see 20 patients later that day, prosecutors said.

His practice has been closed since his arrest.

Prosecutors provided the judge with copies of some of the graphic images found on the computer, a long list of Web sites the doctor allegedly visited and separate erotic images of scantily clad or naked young children. Those images are not criminal, the prosecutors said, but they are significant because they “demonstrate his sexual interest in children.”

Redbord also said Dickey had acknowledged in an interview with law enforcement officials that he had downloaded child pornography. Dickey tried to minimize his behavior, according to Redbord, by saying that he had an interest in the subject because he was a pediatrician.

“This defendant needs serious help to deal with this sickness, and right now he’s not acknowledging the problem,” Redbord said.

Dickey’s attorney, Marlon Griffith, had asked that the judge order his client to be monitored by a GPS device, restricted from accessing the Internet and confined to live somewhere other than his permanent residence, which is upstairs from his practice.

Griffith said there was no evidence that any patients had been in danger and pointed out that Dickey had no criminal history.

Kay ordered Dickey held without bond pending further court proceedings. No hearing date has been scheduled.

 
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