Former Children’s Hospital doctor sentenced on child porn charges says he has ‘a good heart’

Richard Keller said he had a “good heart’’ and he “betrayed a public trust.’’
Richard Keller said he had a “good heart’’ and he “betrayed a public trust.’’ –Globe File Photo

A tearful Richard Keller, a former doctor who worked at the prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover and also at Boston Children’s Hospital, was sentenced today to 6½ years in federal prison on child pornography charges.

Keller, 57, must also pay a $10,000 fine and serve 5½ years of probation after his release. As part of his probation, he must undergo counseling and stay away from children without an adult present, among other conditions.

Standing to address a judge, Keller appeared to struggle to control his emotions. He said he was embarrassed for himself, his friends, and his family, “who have been forced to bear a burden of confusion, betrayal, of shame and profound sorrow.’’

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He acknowledged he had been living in a “heinous and vile subculture.’’

“The hypocrisy of my behavior is not lost on me, for I betrayed a public trust,’’ he said.

Keller, the father of a 2-year-old, who remains in a romantic relationship with a woman, said he recognized his wrongdoing and wanted to make amends, perhaps by becoming an advocate for the “poor, disenfranchised, the helpless.’’

“Please know I have done much good in my life, and I have a good heart,’’ he said.

His lawyer, Max Stern, also told US District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV that his client did not want to minimize the seriousness of his crimes.

“He has had a tortured existence, an agonizing existence,’’ Stern said, saying Keller felt liberated by being caught. “He calls it a tumor. … Now he is free to face his demons.’’

“Any crime that preys upon children, the most vulnerable and precious population, is reprehensible,’’ United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said in a statement. “But when the predator is in a position of trust, as Mr. Keller was as a pediatrician, it is particularly disturbing. The U.S. Attorney’s Office will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners to unveil the cloak of anonymity that these defendants seem to think the Internet provides them.’’

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Keller pleaded guilty in November to a total of three charges of receiving and possessing child pornography for obtaining pictures and videos of boys from ages 7 to 16 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. He had some of it shipped to him at the student health center at Phillips, where he worked for 19 years as medical director.

Keller resigned from Phillips in April 2011 after school officials said they would not renew his contract.

John Palfrey, head of school at the academy, said in an e-mail to students and parents after Keller’s arrest in September 2012 that the decision not to renew Keller’s contract was based on professional misconduct unrelated to the child pornography case.

Palfrey also said in the e-mail that Keller had been reprimanded in 1999 for using a school computer to get access to adult pornography and had shown an inappropriate cartoon to students in 2002. Palfrey said he had no reason to believe that students were affected by Keller’s crimes.

Keller also worked as a pediatric endocrinologist at Children’s Hospital in Boston and taught part-time at Harvard Medical School.

He voluntarily surrendered his state medical license after his arrest. Children’s Hospital did not respond to calls seeking comment.

Federal prosecutors have increased enforcement of child pornography laws under Project Safe Childhood, an initiative started in 2006 to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse.

Keller’s case originated in an investigation into an unnamed Toronto company suspected of making child porn movies. Authorities found Keller’s name and $2,695 in orders for more than 50 titles sent to two addresses for him: a post office box and the student health center at Phillips. Keller made purchases on a total of 19 occasions, prosecutors said.

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Authorities later searched Keller’s house and found high-gloss printouts and DVDs of child pornography.

Assistant US Attorney Stacy Dawson Belf acknowledged Keller’s years of helping children, but said his purchases of child pornography had hurt children.

“Obviously, child pornography is a terrible crime that not only victimizes these children’’ portrayed in the images, but encourages the crime by creating a market for such materials, she said.

“Dr. Keller paid for this, providing an economic incentive to harm children,’’ she said.

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