D.C. pediatrician Robert P. Dickey arrested on child porn charges

A 73-year-old pediatrician who practiced for decades in one of the District’s most impoverished neighborhoods was arrested at his office Wednesday and charged with downloading images of child pornography, according to a criminal complaint filed in federal court.

The complaint says Robert P. Dickey was viewing a Web site with child pornography when FBI agents burst into his home office, located in a $450,000 red-brick dwelling near Fort Dupont Park in Southeast Washington.

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Authorities said 20 patients had appointments Wednesday. But they said there is no indication that any of the 14 images the FBI found on the computer Wednesday morning involved children the doctor had been treating. The search included the doctor’s office and two exam rooms, the FBI said. The criminal complaint described his office as “dirty, cluttered and unkempt.”

The charges came as a shock in the neighborhood where the doctor practices. His D.C. medical license is good through December 2014.

“If the allegations are true, it just sickens me,” said D.C. Council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7). Alexander lives near the doctor and said many friends and associates, and their children, had been Dickey’s patients.

“He practiced in the neighborhood,” Alexander said. “He’s been there for years. He’s had generations of children. He was very quiet, very professional, it seemed. . . . Just to think that someone you entrust your children to might have that mind-set. No one in their right mind would entrust their child to a child pornographer.

An FBI spokeswoman said that Dickey is being charged with possession of child pornography and that he will be held until his initial appearance in U.S. District Court, scheduled for Thursday. A defense attorney was not listed in the court file, and calls to Dickey’s home were not returned. A receptionist who answered the office phone declined to comment except to say that the office had been closed.

The Washington Post profiled Dickey in 1978, reporting that he was one of the few doctors providing medical care east of the Anacostia River, where the patient-to-doctor ratio was then nearly double the maximum recommended by the government.

The article described Dickey, who had an office in Anacostia at the time, as an old-fashioned doctor who saw up to 230 patients a week and who could be called on round-the-clock. He charged people on a siding scale based on income: Someone who made $10,000 a year would be charged just $8 for an office visit.

Dickey received a master’s degree in chemical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1962, according to a school spokeswoman, and then he worked as an engineer for the CIA, according to The Post’s profile.

He graduated from the University of Minnesota’s medical school in 1970, according to that state’s Board of Medical Practices.

He was licensed in Minnesota as a physician and surgeon until 1977, when he moved to the District. He has no prior criminal record in the District, Maryland or Virginia.

According to court documents, Dickey became a suspect in a child pornography investigation April 3 when his computer’s Internet Protocol address was flagged by the nonprofit National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which monitors Internet traffic. The center tracked Dickey’s e-mail address, which had been used to download 14 pornographic images, according to the criminal complaint.

The images showed young boys and girls performing sex acts, the complaint says. The FBI says agents staked out the doctor’s office and residence and then obtained the search warrant that was served Wednesday. Authorities said they seized a desktop computer, a computer hard drive and other equipment.

Jennifer Jenkins contributed to this report.

 
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