FARGO-Before Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Robert Beattie in his federal child pornography case Tuesday, Erickson recited a Cherokee parable:

Inside a person, is a fight between two hungry wolves. One is bad, and the other is good. Which wolf wins the fight?

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"The one we feed," Erickson said before ordering Beattie to spend 12 years in prison for having 3,233 images and 100 videos of child porn involving children as young as 2 years old.

Friends, relatives and colleagues lined up at a microphone before Judge Erickson to vouch for Beattie's character and reputation. And Beattie's attorney, Peter Welte, summed up a theme that ran through Beattie's entire case.

"Mr. Beattie is a good man with a good family who made a bad decision," Welte said. "But he is a good man."

Last August, the 56-year-old was charged in federal court with three child pornography charges, and reached a plea deal with prosecutors in February. With one count dismissed, Beattie pleaded guilty in March to the receipt and distribution charge and one charge of possession of materials.

"It's a federal crime," Welte said. "It's a bell that can't be unrung."

In the aftermath, Beattie lost his job as the UND chairman of the Family and Community Medicine Department and his medical licenses in North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

"It cost him his life as he knew it," Welte said. "Today it will cost him his freedom, and it will cost him his liberty."

'Truly sorry'

At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Puhl laid out her case for what sentence Beattie should receive, while Welte laid out his. Three friends and colleagues of Beattie told Erickson about the Beattie they knew through decades of friendship, saying they were shocked by what happened and would trust their family and children with him.

But Beattie, with a prepared statement printed on a sheet of paper, had the final say before Erickson rendered a sentence.

"Today, I humbly stand before you a broken human being and beg mercy from the court," Beattie said.

He told Erickson that he was "truly sorry for any pain that I caused" the victims in the images, and that he had "shamed" his family with his actions.

Beattie told the court he had contemplated suicide after his arrest, thinking that was the best way to relieve the situation for his family. But after a long discussion with longtime friend Paul Bowlinger, the two decided that would only hurt his family more and Beattie had a life ahead of him.

"If there is a person who deserves redemption, it is Rob Beattie," Bowlinger said.

Beattie's wife also made a statement. Through tears, she told the court she knew Beattie as a humble, forgiving man, who is good to his family.

"I have forgiven Rob for that horrible time in our lives," she said.

Welte also made a lengthy, impassioned argument that Beattie was of the "highest character and moral standing," but had "slipped" into the "dark side of the internet" over a four-to-five-month period last year.

Puhl said she does not "dispute that Mr. Beattie has good qualities," but she wanted to emphasize that "the defendant is not the victim here." It is the children in the images, she said.

"These images are not of a naked child frolicking in a field," Puhl said. "It's hard-core pornography" with "really horrific acts."

Profound harm

Child pornography cases are always serious, Erickson said, because of the profound impact on the victims "that never really goes away." The victims "live in terror" as adults and "don't know who's looking at their images. They don't know who recognizes them."

In his time as a judge, Erickson has learned that "truly evil people are rare." And in most child pornography cases, the person named as a defendant is usually a shock to the community because the defendant kept it a secret, Erickson said, as in Beattie's case.

Beattie's life as a law-abiding citizen and a father and husband to his family are important to note, Erickson said.

But "the punishment has got to fit the crime," he said.

At the hearing, Puhl asked that Beattie receive about 17½ years in prison and 10 more years of supervised release. Alternatively, Welte argued that the loss of his career and his medical licenses and the hurt he caused his family had already punished Beattie and instead he should be ordered to a sentence on the low end of guidelines outlined in the plea deal, even as low as the mandatory five-year minimum sentence for Beattie's charge.

But Erickson said five years in prison and going below the sentencing guideline was "just not going to happen," and instead imposed the 12-year term with a decade of supervised release. In addition, Beattie must pay $10,000 in restitution to the victims depicted in the child pornography he had, $200 to the Crime Victims' Fund and an additional $5,000 under the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act.

Beattie also has to undergo a sex offender evaluation.

He was taken into custody immediately after the hearing to begin his sentence, and he has the option to appeal his sentence. There is no parole in the federal prison system, so he could only earn limited early release for good behavior.