Psych Crime Reporter

August 7, 2013

State considers reinstating license of psychiatrist convicted of child porn possession?

Filed under: child pornography,crime and fraud,license revoked,psychiatrist,Uncategorized — Psych Crime Reporter @ 2:34 pm

A former child psychiatrist who was felled by his lust for child pornography and spent time in federal prison is seeking forgiveness from those he betrayed — and a second chance.

And some of the most respected mental-health professionals in the area are rallying behind Dr. James H. Peak, suggesting that the man who served the medical community for nearly two decades deserves redemption.

Peak has petitioned the Montana Board of Medical Examiners for reinstatement of his medical license. A decision may come as soon as September.

“He has struggled with accepting the humiliation of public disclosure, but mostly with the fact that he has let his patients down,” said Michael J. Ramirez, clinical coordinator for the Montana Professional Assistance Program. “I believe that his remorse is genuine and heartfelt. He has paid his debt to society.”

Peak, 51, served just under 10 months in a Seattle federal prison after pleading guilty in August 2011 to possessing child pornography. He had been a child and adolescent psychiatrist at Billings Clinic, the state’s largest hospital, since 1994.

Since his release from prison, Peak has been working to restore not only his medical license but also his reputation and the trust he lost when his double life was exposed.

He is volunteering 20 hours a week at the South Central Montana Regional Mental Health Center in Billings, where he is helping update policies and procedures. He has no contact with patients.

As conditions of his probation and his treatment from the state Professional Assistance Program, Peak attends two 12-step programs, one for sex addicts and one for alcoholics. He regularly sees a psychiatrist and a social worker and participates in group therapy. And he attends a peer support group, which includes other licensed medical professionals. He also participates weekly in the Montana Sex Offender Treatment Program.

The court has restricted his contact with children and his use of computers. He was also ordered to register as a sex offender and is subject to random urinalysis and polygraph tests.

Along with the support of the Professional Assistance Program, Peak also has the loyal support of his wife, who is a prominent Billings physician, and their teenage daughter, said Ramirez, the program’s coordinator. Peak’s wife declined to be interviewed for this story.

The assistance program is funded by medical licensing fees and helps physicians and dentists whose practices have been jeopardized by sexual misconduct, substance abuse, psychiatric illness or other issues.

Ramirez said 90 percent of medical professionals who work with MPAP successfully return to practice.

He has been working with Peak since Peak’s arrest in February 2011.

“This man has been to hell and back,” Ramirez said, recalling one of their first meetings when Peak lay in the fetal position on his office floor.

“He is an example of courage, resilience, compassion and strength that will serve him, his future colleagues and patients well,” Ramirez said. “The best disinfectant is sunlight. … He doesn’t have anything to hide. Not anymore.”

Top of the world

From the outside, Peak seemed to have it all. He had a thriving practice serving troubled young patients. Even after his arrest, the parents of several of his patients praised his work, some even saying that Peak’s therapy may have saved their child’s life.

But Peak was battling an escalating addiction to child pornography that he said stretched back 30 years. As early as his own adolescence, he said he recalls being sexually attracted to young boys.

That attraction, he insists, never reached beyond fantasy and child pornography. He said he’s only had sexual relations with two women, all the while knowing something about him was “off.”

“I knew there was something wrong with me,” he said. “And I knew I could never tell anyone.”

He said he was mostly able to keep his inappropriate desires in check until the advent of the Internet, where pornography is more accessible and abundant. After viewing the child pornography he collected, he said he would despise himself, sometimes to the point of throwing away his computer.

He’d then be fine for a three or four months, he said, before caving in again.

Investigators say they found no evidence that Peak ever viewed pornography at work, and polygraph results confirm his insistence that he never touched a child inappropriately.

“I felt the powerful paradox of being a really good doctor, wanting to help people — and wanting to protect children — and this darker part of me that I tried to keep walled off,” Peak said.

“It was incredibly painful to discover that I was utilizing pornography that took advantage of children,” he said. “To become the thing I didn’t want to be was extraordinarily painful.”

His secret life began to unravel when a pornographic advertisement featuring little boys arrived in his mailbox. He contacted an FBI agent he knew about the ad and was told to contact a U.S. postal inspector.

The ad, it turns out, was part of a federal investigation. Peak’s illicit Internet activities had apparently come to the attention of federal authorities.

When he was later confronted by authorities, he consented to a search of his home and, according to court testimony, was “extremely helpful” in collecting and identifying evidence, including credit card statements confirming his purchases of child pornography.

“I’d like to say I turned myself in,” Peak said. “I didn’t do that. I didn’t have the courage to do that. I had to get forced into it.”

Peak, who said he was once suicidal, sees that initial call to the FBI as a cry for help. Deep down, he wanted to be caught.

“I was miserable,” Peak said. “I couldn’t go on like this. I was drinking a lot. I was an alcoholic. I was trying to medicate the pain of this illness.”

The most difficult part of his conviction was not the nine months and 18 days he spent in prison, he said. It was all the people he let down. He had patients he cared about and had fostered relationships of trust with.

Then, one day he was gone. Literally.

“I fell off the face of the earth,” he said. “I can never apologize for that enough. I feel bad about that every day.”

Many of his young patients were in need of therapy because they had been betrayed by adults. He struggles with whether he, too, has become another adult who let them down.

“When I’m in a bad mood, when I’m in my bad place, I become another one of those people, which is very difficult,” he said.

The road back

Peak realizes he will never be able to work with children again, but said he still has much to contribute as a practicing psychiatrist.

Other mental-health professionals agree, including Barbara Mettler, executive director of the Mental Health Center, where Peak is volunteering to update policies.

“We are a mental-health center,” Mettler emphasized. “We believe that with help, people can recover and get better. If we don’t provide opportunities for people to do that, who’s going to? I implicitly believe him when he says he has never touched a child. I think that’s worth giving this man a chance.”

Another advocate and mentor is Dr. Thomas Van Dyk, a psychiatrist and medical director at the Mental Health Center who encouraged Peak’s volunteer work there.

Van Dyk has known Peak for 18 years and said that with the exception of his prison term, he has met with him every week since his arrest. He describes Peak as an “excellent” psychiatrist and hopes he can eventually join the staff at the Mental Health Center.

“I’m proud of him for coming forward and working to get himself back in order,” Van Dyk said.

Before entering federal prison in Seattle, Peak was referred for a comprehensive psychosexual evaluation and treatment at a Texas facility that specializes in treating health care professionals. Reports from his treatment team indicated that he was a model patient and extremely motivated for change.

Michael D. Sullivan is director of the Billings-based South Central Treatment Associates, which specializes in the evaluation and treatment of juvenile and adult sex offenders and victims. He said that while there is no one-size-fits-all treatment, sex offenders can be rehabilitated. Much depends on the nature of the individual’s problem, he said.

The success of rehabilitation depends on several factors that include the makeup of an individual’s personality, his or her adaptive skills, the nature of the problem, and what he has done in terms of getting treatment.

“There are a lot of offenders deemed low-risk who are treatable and go on to lead productive lives,” Sullivan said.

Research also shows that the rates of recidivism for online offenders are relatively low when compared with average rates of recidivism found for hands-on sexual offenders.

As Peak awaits a decision on the reinstatement of his license, he is aware he has critics. None will be harsher on him than he is on himself.

“Jim Peak is having a difficult time forgiving Jim Peak,” MPAP’s Ramirez said. “That’s the hardest lesson, and it’s taking some time.”

Source: Cindy Uken, “Former child psychiatrist convicted for child porn seeks redemption,” Billings Gazette, August 3, 2013.

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November 2, 2012

Gary J. Byrd, former child psychiatrist convicted of child porn in 90s, indicted again on porn charges

Filed under: child pornography,crime and fraud,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 2:11 pm

LAFAYETTE, Louisiana — A former Opelousas child psychiatrist, who was convicted in a 1990s child pornography case that included allegations of inappropriate contact with boys, has been indicted again on federal pornography charges.

Gary Jefferson Byrd, 70, was indicted this week on federal charges of possessing and receiving child pornography.

The indictment reveals few details about the case, other than that the allegations cover a period that stretches from 2008 until this year.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Patrick Hanna has ordered Byrd detained pending trial.

A federal jury convicted Byrd in 1992 on child pornography charges, and he was sentenced in 1993 to 10 years in federal prison and ordered to pay a $65,000 fine.

Testimony in the trial included allegations that Byrd had inappropriate sexual contact with children in his care and took nude photographs of children he spanked, according to news reports at the time.

Byrd, whose medical license was revoked, also had been indicted by a state grand jury in 1987 on two counts of sexual battery in St. Landry Parish for allegedly molesting two boys.

Those charges were dropped in a 1991 agreement that called on Byrd never to see children as clients again if he regained his medical license.

Prosecutors said at the time that the deal was made because of difficulties in finding witnesses or evidence to corroborate the statements from the two young boys.

Byrd’s attorney in the recent federal case, Randal McCann, could not be reached for comment Friday.

Authorities arrested Byrd in September on a federal complaint that at the time was sealed.

Source: Richard Burgess, “Man indicted on porn charges: Former child psychiatrist jailed in ’90s,” The Advocate, October 23, 2012.

October 29, 2012

Psychologist John William Visher arrested on charge of sex crime with 8-year-old; lawsuit

Filed under: child molestation,child pornography,psychologist,sexual abuse,sexual exploitation — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:00 pm

SANTA CRUZ — A civil lawsuit has been filed against a Capitola psychologist who is facing criminal charges of sexual abuse against a child.

Dr. John William Visher was arrested last month at his La Selva Beach home after Capitola police investigated allegations that he committed lewd acts against an 8-year-old girl. The girl had been his patient and detectives believe the incidents occurred at Visher’s former Bay Avenue office in 2009.

Last week, the girl’s family filed a personal injury suit against Visher in the civil divisions of Santa Cruz County Court. It charges him with sexual harassment, professional negligence and intentional infliction of emotional distress, and seeks unspecified damages.

Visher pleaded not guilty on Oct. 9 to five felony charges that include lewd acts upon a child, sending obscene material and possession of material depicting a minor engaging in sexual conduct. He is due back in court Nov. 14.

The family is being represented in their civil suit by attorney and psychologist Joseph C. George.Capitola police detective Sarah Ryan said earlier this month that the alleged acts against the girl were first reported in January but the investigation was complicated by doctor-patient privilege issues.

Ryan said her continued investigation has uncovered complaints about abuse of two boys who were ages 6 and 10 at the time. Ryan has re-interviewed the boys and her investigation into those incidents is ongoing.

“While Ms. Doe is very sad that her daughter was abused by the defendant after two minor patients had previously been harmed by Dr. Bill, she is also extremely grateful to law enforcement officials who investigated this case against a trusted, child psychologist who has treated Santa Cruz area kids for 30 years,” George said.

Visher’s license to practice psychology was suspended by the California Board of Psychology on Sept. 24 after his arrest on those charges. He was first licensed to practice psychology in the state in August 1982 and has no prior administrative citations or disciplinary actions on record with the agency.He has posted bail and is no longer in custody.

Capitola police urge anyone with more information to contact the department at 475-4242 and ask to speak with a detective.

Source: Jessica M. Pasko, “Suit filed against Capitola psychologist for allegedly sexually abusing a child patient,” Santa Cruz Sentinel,
October 22, 2012.

October 22, 2012

Employee of National Alliance on Mental Illness charged with distributing child porn

Filed under: child pornography,mental health — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:47 pm
Tags: ,

AUGUSTA, Maine – A man from Augusta who worked at the National Alliance on Mental Illness and ran a martial arts studio has been arrested, charged with distributing child pornography.

Wade Hoover was arrested at the Augusta offices of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Wednesday morning.

According to a media release from State Police Spokesperson Steve McCausland, officers from the State Police Computer Crimes Unit and the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency were operating on a tip when they went to his office.

Police say they found Hoover was using a personal computer to distribute child porn images via NAMI’s internet service.

NAMI has cooperated with the investigation. Police say the organization was unaware as to how Hoover was allegedly using their internet connection.

Investigators say they found dozens of images of child porn on Hoover’s computer. They believe at least one of the children is from Maine.

Hoover also operates the Kosho Warrior’s Martial Arts studio and United Martial Arts Academy in Lewiston. He is a former instructor at the United Martial Arts Academy in Augusta.

Investigators believe more charges are coming.

Hoover is being held at the Kennebec County Jail.

Source: Krister Rollins, “Augusta man arrested on child pornography charges,” WCSH News Center 6 (Portland, Maine), October 3, 2012.

September 25, 2012

California psychologist John Visher arrested on child sex abuse and child porn charges

Filed under: child molestation,child pornography,psychologist,sexual abuse,sexual exploitation — Psych Crime Reporter @ 8:06 pm

CAPITOLA, California — A 65-year-old psychologist was arrested Wednesday at his La Selva Beach home on suspicion of child sex abuse and child porn possession.

Capitola police received a report in January that Dr. John Visher possibly had committed lewd acts with a minor who was his client at the time. According to the criminal complaint, the incidents are alleged to have taken place sometime between September 2009 and December 2009, prosecutor Michael Gilman said.

The girl was 8 years old at the time.

During the course of the police investigation, a search warrant was executed at Visher’s home and his office on Bay Avenue in Capitola.

Due to potential patient-therapist privilege issues, the court appointed a special investigator to review all items seized during the investigation. Members of the Sheriff’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office assisted.

Visher was arrested by Capitola police detectives Wednesday. He’s charged with committing lewd acts with a child younger than 14, displaying harmful matter to a child and four counts of possession of child pornography.

Visher was taken into custody and booked into County Jail without incident. He was out on bail as of Wednesday night and is scheduled to be arraigned Monday.

Authorities have notified the state licensing board that oversees licensing of psychologists of the investigation and the arrest.

Visher was first licensed to practice psychology in California in August 1982, according to the California Board of Psychology. He does not have any prior administrative citations or disciplinary actions on record with the agency.

The investigation is ongoing, according to Capitola detective Sarah Ryan.

Source: Jessica M. Pasko, “Capitola psychologist arrested on suspicion of child molestation,” Santa Cruz Sentinel, September 20, 2012.

State charges psychiatrist Richard J. Pines with sex abuse of children

The Idaho State Board of Medicine has filed a complaint against a Boise child and adolescent psychiatrist alleging he had improper sexual contact with four former patients or foster children and had a three-year affair with an adult patient to whom he was prescribing painkillers.

The complaint against Dr. Richard J. Pines was filed on June 28 and alleges abuses dating back to June 2001. He has denied the allegations in his response to the board. Pines’ attorney, David Cantrill, declined comment.

The board is seeking a hearing on whether Pines’ license should be suspended or revoked or if he should face other punishment. No criminal charges have been filed.

The board’s complaint alleges that in two cases Pines told young men he needed to practice giving massages to naked bodies to maintain his medical license and improperly touched them, including one who was 14.

Pines acknowledged taking naked pictures of another patient who was about 14 while they were at Pines’ cabin in Garden Valley and acknowledged taking money to that patient before Pines was interviewed by Boise police in March 2011, the board’s complaint alleges.

In January 2011, the board alleges Pines told a former foster child that he needed a “test patient” on whom to practice hernia exams and that he acknowledged giving that person $2,000 after the incident.

The board also alleges Pines prescribed controlled substances to an adult patient with whom he had a three-year affair without records showing that the patient needed the medication. The board said the last prescription, for acetaminophen and codeine, was filled in June 2010.

Pines has been licensed to practice medicine in Idaho since June 1997 and has worked at several places including Boise Public Schools and Saint Alphonsus Health System.

Source: “Medical board files complaint against Boise doctor,” Associated Press, August 27, 2012.

June 30, 2011

Marriage & family therapist sentenced for possession of child porn, perjury

Filed under: child pornography,crime and fraud,mental health — Psych Crime Reporter @ 1:17 pm

On June 27, 2011, marriage and family therapist Thomas Henry Ceglarek was sentenced to three years and 10 months in federal prison for possession of child pornography and perjury.  He was further sentenced to 15 years supervised released and was ordered to pay a $5000 fine and register as a sex offender.

Ceglarek admitted that he possessed two computers containing images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.  He also admitted that he had falsely claimed to have been unemployed in October 2010 in order to obtain a court-appointed attorney when in fact he was then earning $70,000 a year in his position as an elementary school counselor with the San Diego School District.

Ceglarek’s marriage and family therapist license with the state of California is listed as inactive as of March 31, 2011.

Source: Susan Shroder, “Former school counselor sentenced in child-porn case,” San Diego Union-Tribune, June 27, 2011.

June 27, 2011

April 14, 2011

Catholic League outraged about “debased psychiatrists”

Dr. Steve Taylor, a Louisiana psychiatrist who has worked with the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests (SNAP), has been sentenced to two years in prison for possession of child pornography. The news drew the following response from Catholic League president Bill Donohue:

How many more morally debased psychiatrists are working with SNAP? Did SNAP leaders know about the leisure-time activities of Dr. Taylor? When did they know and what did they do about it? It’s time we learned the truth.

What we know already is nauseating. In 2008, Dr. Taylor’s computer was seized by the authorities after they learned that he was downloading child pornography. He was jailed on 107 counts at the time, and in September of last year a grand jury indicted him. The court accepted a plea bargain from him this week.

Dr. Taylor got off easy, at least according to his own standards. In 2003, speaking for SNAP clients, he argued that the confidentiality of the confessional seal should not be respected by the law. In a contemptuous statement against the Catholic Church, he voiced his objections to a unanimous decision by the Louisiana House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice protecting the confidential communication of priests, ministers, rabbis and other clergy members. He said at the time that the seal has to be broken because “We have faces now.”

Well, SNAP, we now have the faces of the children your colleague downloaded to feed his sick habits.

If breaking the priest-penitent privilege is something you support, will you now support turning over the patient records of Dr. Taylor? Will you support a probe of this matter? What if there is more evidence against him? What if there are more victims? You’re always looking for new victims, aren’t you? Strike when the iron is hot—who cares about psychiatrist-patient privilege?

Jeff Field

Director of Communications

The Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

450 Seventh Avenue

New York, NY 10123

212-371-3191

212-371-3394 (fax)

Louisiana psychiatrist Steve Taylor sentenced to two years prison for possession of child pornography

Filed under: child pornography,crime and fraud,mental health,psychiatrist — Psych Crime Reporter @ 10:08 am
Tags:

A retired Covington (Louisiana) psychiatrist booked in 2008 with possessing more than 100 sexually explicit pictures of children on his computer has pleaded guilty to less severe charges.

Dr. Steve Taylor, 71, admitted to attempted possession of juvenile pornography during a hearing at the St. Tammany Parish courthouse in Covington on Tuesday, according to the District Attorney’s Office. In exchange for his plea, state Judge Peter Garcia sentenced him to two years in prison.

Ralph Whalen, Taylor’s defense attorney, said his client will begin serving his sentence April 22. He declined to answer questions about the reasoning behind the plea.

Meanwhile, DA spokesman Rick Wood explained that prosecutors struck the deal because they had concerns about evidence in the case and were unsure that a trial verdict would be favorable.

“It was the right thing to do,” Wood said.

Taylor, prior to his arrest, had been honored for his work with health care organizations and had been affiliated with a group dedicated to counseling victims of sexual abuse.

Sheriff’s Office deputies began investigating Taylor three years ago after receiving a tip that child pornography had been downloaded on his computer.

Investigators later seized Taylor’s home computer and uncovered images downloaded from websites showing non-local youths under the age of 17. On April 9, 2008, they searched Taylor’s home and office and jailed him on 107 counts of juvenile pornography possession, each of which was punishable with a $10,000 fine and two to 10 years in prison.

Authorities have declined to say where the tip originated.

A grand jury indicted him last September. The court scheduled his trial for this week, but he accepted a plea bargain rather than combat the charges before a jury.

Attempted possession of child pornography carries a maximum five-year sentence. Assistant District Attorney Joseph Oubre handled the prosecution.

Taylor was well-known as a psychiatrist on the north shore. He served on St. Tammany Parish Hospital’s Ethics Board, counseled residents after Hurricane Katrina and ran a support group for survivors of suicide. Late in the month during which he was arrested, he was supposed to receive an “Angels Among Us” award from the Hospice Foundation of the South. But organizers canceled the event.

He also collaborated with the Louisiana chapter of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, or SNAP.

Taylor attended the first meeting of the organization in Metairie in 2003. He also accompanied members of the organization to Baton Rouge when they urged the Legislature to require clergy to report abuse suspicions.

At the time, he told The Times-Picayune the right of clergy to keep confessions private did not outweigh the importance of discovering potential abuse cases. “The privilege is not as important as helping the next child,” he said. “The cycle has to be broken.”

Source: Ramon Antonio Vargas, “Retired Covington psychiatrist pleads guilty to attempted possession of child pornography,” The Times-Picayune, April 13, 2011.

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