UPDATED: Former Hettinger doctor charged with possession of child pornography

[Updated Aug. 11 to include comment from West River CEO and to correct Beattie’s place and length of employment.]

A former Hettinger doctor is facing multiple criminal charges of possession of child pornography after he was arrested last week in Grand Forks.



By COLE BENZ | Record Editor | cbenz@countrymedia.net

A former Hettinger doctor is facing multiple criminal charges of possession of child pornography after he was arrested last week in Grand Forks.

Robert William Beattie, 55, of Grand Forks was arrested Aug. 6 by the Grand Forks Police Department after police discovered that an IP address being used to distribute child pornography was linked to him, according to a statement released by the department.

According to documents filed Aug. 7 in Grand Forks County District Court, Beattie is charged with 10 counts of possession of child pornography, a Class C Felony. A Class C Felony carries a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment, up to a $5,000 fine, or both.

Beattie was previously employed by the United Clinic Physicians Group. Through that group, he worked from 1991 to 2005 as a physician at West River Health Services in Hettinger. He left the hospital in 2005 to accept the position of chairman of the Family Medicine Department at the University of North Dakota.

Police received a cyber-tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in regards to child pornography that was being possessed, manufactured and distributed. An ongoing investigation showed that the IP address—a numerical label assigned to each device that utilizes an Internet connection—was found to be associated with Beattie’s home address, according to police.

A search warrant was served at both Beattie’s home and his current place of employment.

Assisting in the search were the Grand Forks Police Department, North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigations, University of North Dakota Police Department and Homeland Security Investigations.

Beattie has retained Peter Welte, an attorney with Vogel Law Firm in Grand Forks, as council, according to court records.

Originally from Garrison, Beattie formerly served as chief of West River’s Family Medicine Department in Hettinger and was also coordinator with the Rural Opportunities in Medical Education program.

West River also operates facilities in Bowman, Scranton, Dickinson, New England, Mott and Lemmon, SD.

“Dr. Beattie was an excellent physician who was never even suspected of any misconduct when he was here over 10 years ago,” said Jim Long, CEO of West River.

This is the latest of two incidents where a physician with West River Health Services had been arrested for misconduct.

Last month, Robert John Gustafson, a surgeon at West River, pleaded not guilty to 12 counts related to the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage girl in Oregon.

Gustafson, 46, began working in November as a surgeon specializing in laparoscopic surgery at West River Health Services, employed by the United Clinic Physicians Group.

He is still working at the Hettinger health care provider as he awaits a September court date in Oregon.

“As to Dr. Gustafson, I have not been made aware of any evidence as to misconduct, only charges,” Long said. “It is my hope and belief that he will be proven innocent of such. If he is not, then we will have a different situation.”

(Bryce Martin, Pioneer editor, contributed to this report.)