A respected Billings child psychiatrist who admitted to living a double life will spend about a year in federal prison for possessing child pornography, a sentence far shorter than the five years he faced.

Senior U.S. District Judge Jack Shanstrom on Wednesday noted the extraordinary nature of the case as he sentenced James H. Peak, 49, to one year and one day in prison and a lifetime of supervised release. He also ordered Peak to register as a sex offender.

Peak faced a guideline range of 51 months to 63 months. The statutory maximum was 10 years and a $250,000 fine.

"You're going to be doing a year and a day of hard time," Shanstrom told Peak. "That's a severe sentence in a lot of ways as a professional person going to prison."

In a brief statement, Peak apologized to all those he had hurt and disappointed, especially to his former patients and their families. Letting them down, he said, "is heartbreaking."

Peak wrote in a letter to Shanstrom, "As painful as the last year has been, I am grateful to finally be rid of trying to live the double life of being a respected physician while secretly struggling with difficult sexual thoughts."

Peak said he "can never work with children or adolescents again" but hoped to use his experience with other addicted adults and to make "amends" through honorable work.

Peak, who had worked since 1994 at Billings Clinic as a child and adolescent psychiatrist until he was suspended earlier this year, declined to comment further. He voluntarily placed his medical license on inactive status.

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry lists Peak's license as inactive and expiring in March 2013. A license terminates two years after expiring, said Ian Marquand, executive director of the Board of Medical Examiners. Peak must report his sentence to the board, and if Peak seeks to reinstate his license, the full board would have to consider the request, he said.

Peak pleaded guilty in August to possessing child porn, admitting that he bought and received material through the mail.

Shanstrom imposed the shorter sentence, saying Peak had reported himself to law enforcement, has extraordinary support from doctors, other professionals, hospital staff, former clients and patients and had not committed any hands-on offenses. The nature of Peak's collection also was not the extreme and graphic images usually found in child porn cases, he said.

Shanstrom called Peak's case one of the most difficult sex cases in his 48 years on the bench and said he had given it "a tremendous amount of research and thought."

Peak, Shanstrom said, "lived a double life for approximately 30 years" as he collected then destroyed child porn collections. The activity continued into his professional life as he treated young children. The judge said he believed reports and polygraph testing that indicated Peak had never touched a child.

The judge also noted the many letters of support he received for Peak."There's not one of them that had a bad thing to say," he said. Some of the letters from clients said that Peak had saved their lives, he added. The letters were sealed.

Billings defense attorney Jay Lansing recommended a sentence of one day in jail, 10 years of supervised release and a year of home detention.

Such an extraordinary case merited such an extraordinary sentence, Lansing said.

After reporting himself to the FBI, Peak cooperated with investigators, voluntarily completed in-patient treatment, was considered low-risk to re-offend and continues to receive out-patient treatment along with attending alcohol and sex offender anonymous programs.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do and more," Lansing said. "It doesn't matter whether he was a doctor. It's not what he did for a living, it's how he lived his life."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marcia Hurd agreed that Peak's sentence should be shorter than the guidelines but recommended 38 months, saying his cooperation should be balanced with the victims who were exploited for Peak's sexual gratification.

The guidelines already reflected the less graphic nature of the images, Hurd said. Peak, she said, engaged in criminal activity for 30 years because of his inability to handle his sexual attraction to children.

"Someone has to think about the children in the movies," Hurd said.

In addition to prison, Shanstrom restricted Peak's contact with children under age 18 unless given permission by his probation officer and imposed strict conditions on computer use. The judge waived a fine, saying Peak did not have the ability to pay one. He allowed Peak to surrender when he is assigned to a prison. 

Contact Clair Johnson at cjohnson@billingsgazette.com or 657-1282.

Angry
0
Sad
0
Funny
0
Wow
0
Love
0

Locations