ND psychologist gets 7 years on child porn charges


Published: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 10:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 23, 2009 at 10:32 p.m.

FARGO, N.D. A former mental hospital psychologist who said he became interested in child pornography while treating sex offenders was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison.

BELANGER
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BELANGER

This Wednesday, Dec. 2008 file photo shows former state mental hospital psychologist Joseph Belanger, 61, of Jamestown, N.D. Belanger was sentenced Friday, Jan. 23, 2009 to seven years in prison on child pornography charges.

The Associated Press

Joseph Belanger, 61, of Jamestown, pleaded guilty last year to charges of receiving and possessing materials involving the sexual exploitation of minors.

Belanger, who had worked at the North Dakota State Hospital in Jamestown for more than 20 years, paid for access to Internet pornography sites and downloaded thousands of sexually explicit images and more than 200 videos. He subscribed to the Web sites for more than six years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Klemetsrud Puhl said.

Prosecutors said Belanger told authorities that his interest in child pornography began while he was counseling sex offenders at the hospital.

U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson said Belanger should have taken advantage of his experience and background to seek treatment for himself.

"He, of all people, should have known there was help available," Erickson said.

Belanger faced a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison and a mandatory minimum term of five years.

Defense attorney Steven Light said a psychologist's report showed his client was a good candidate for rehabilitation. Belanger cooperated with authorities and had no previous criminal history, he said.

"He's not a hands-on offender," Light said.

When given the opportunity to speak, Belanger referred to a written statement to the judge that was not made public.

"I don't know what more I can say," Belanger said.

During the hearing, Puhl read a victim impact statement from a 17-year-old girl who had been sexually molested by her father when she was 10 or 11. Images of the girl were posted on porn sites accessed by Belanger.

Victims in such cases "are traumatized in a way that never really ends," the judge said.

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