Pediatrician pleads guilty to charges of downloading child pornography

jmustian@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 1, 2012 

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WOODY MARSHALL — The Telegraph

An Arkansas pediatrician arrested in Columbus last fall pleaded guilty Tuesday to federal child pornography charges.

Yancy Craft, 41, faces a minimum sentence of five years and up to 20 years in prison for receipt of child pornography. Craft downloaded the images from a peer-to-peer online network between May and November of last year, prosecutors said.

In a November interview with the FBI, Craft admitted to having “possibly thousands” of illicit images on his computer, but said he didn’t know any of the children and hadn’t tried to meet them. Craft said he stopped practicing medicine in Arkansas and moved here in October to be with family.

He said he has not practiced medicine in Columbus.

“I didn’t really have anywhere else to go,” Craft said, “and I was kind of on my last resources to live.”

Defense attorney Richard C. Hagler asked U.S. District Judge Clay D. Land to allow Craft remain free on bond until his April 25 sentencing.

“He’s been incredibly cooperative with the FBI,” Hagler said. “When I first met him, he was sitting in the FBI office baring his soul to them.”

Hagler said Craft has been undergoing treatment and is taking medication for depression and anxiety, though he clarified the defense was not suggesting Craft could not appreciate his criminal conduct at the time he downloaded the images.

“He was capable of understanding the nature of the act,” Hagler said, “and was not acting under delusional compulsions at the time.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Melvin E. Hyde Jr., however, said prosecutors considered Craft a flight risk. “The defendant has traveled internationally and could do so again,” Hyde said.

Land ordered Craft be taken into custody after the hearing, agreeing he could be a flight risk in light of the mandatory five-year prison sentence.

Earlier in the hearing, Land asked Hyde to clarify for the record the difference between possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography, charges that carry widely disparate sentencing ranges.

Possession, Hyde said, is when a suspect is alleged to merely have illegal images.

The receipt statute, which applies to Craft’s case, implies “affirmative action” was taken on the part of a defendant to obtain the pornography, such as logging onto a peer-to-peer file-sharing site, Hyde said.

Distribution charges, meanwhile, require prosecutors prove a defendant shared the images with others. “We think we probably could have charged him with distribution, too,” Hyde told Land.

As part of his sentence, Craft will be required to register as a sex offender.

He also will likely lose his medical license.

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