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Sex Crime Expert Nabbed for Sex Crimes

So that's how he got his expertise. A North Dakota psychologist who served as an expert witness in hundreds of sex-crime cases in multiple states has admitted an addiction to child pornography and now faces federal charges for possession of child porn. His admission has caused reviews of hundreds of cases in which he served as an expert witness and resulted in orders of new trials for two Iowa sex offenders.

The psychologist, Joseph Belanger, 61, admitted his child-porn addiction in a Nov. 27 letter to the North Dakota licensing board after federal authorities seized his home computer and he was forced to leave his job at a state mental-health hospital. The letter was brought to light by Des Moines Register reporter Jeff Eckhoff, whose story about Belanger appeared this week. The letter blamed his addiction on childhood sexual abuse and the fact that he has "been so frightened of the world and of women that I mostly used pornography ... as an outlet."

The letter resulted in reviews of more than 145 Iowa cases in which Belanger was a witness. Judges in two Iowa counties cited the admission as grounds for granting new trials in two cases of men locked up in part based on Belanger's opinion that they were dangerous. "The disturbing nature of Dr. Belanger's own deviate behavior ... is sufficiently large to undermine the court's confidence in the jury verdict that may be largely based on that testimony," wrote one of the two judges, J. Hobart Darbyshire, in a ruling last month. "Presumably ... the state will be able to secure a new evaluation of the respondent by an expert not burdened with the same problems Dr. Belanger has."

Yesterday, Belanger was arraigned in federal court in Fargo on three charges of possession of child pornography, where he pleaded not guilty, the Associated Press reports. Belanger's admission is not likely to affect cases in his home state of North Dakota, AP says, because of a state law, since repealed, that required supporting testimony from two expert witnesses to justify indefinite confinement of sexually dangerous persons. U.S. Magistrate Judge Karen Klein ordered the former expert witness to report to a halfway house until he can be placed on electronic home monitoring.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 22, 2008 at 11:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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