Doctor pleads no contest in child-pornography case
Dr. David Sampognaro of Luling pleaded no contest to a single count of "attempted possession of child pornography" before the 29th Judicial District Judge Emile St. Pierre in Hahnville.
"Attempted possession" is considered a misdemeanor and is a lesser charge than being charged with all 21 counts of possession of child pornography.
Sampognaro has been placed on an indefinite probation by the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners and will only be permitted to practice medicine on persons 17 years of age and older.
The case has moved briskly in 2006 following a two-year lull in which federal agents who confiscated in January 2004 a personal computer owned by Sampaognaro backed off the case.
At the time, the doctor allegedly told agents that he downloaded child pornography for research purposes, but state and federal agents waited two full years before they arrested him at his home last January.
The internist was arraigned on April 4 by Judge St. Pierre based on what federal and local authorities described as "58 digital computer files" that appeared to be child pornography on Sampognaro's computer.
The doctor was indicted by a grand jury on March 29 on 21 counts of possession of child pornography.
A hearing just weeks ago, in September, focused on a motion that was filed in August asking Judge St. Pierre to suppress statements that were made by Sampognaro during his initial interrogation.
Sampognaro argued that arresting officers didn't recite his Miranda warning. He contended that he "didn't knowingly waive his rights" before he told special agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement that he had downloaded pornographic images onto his personal computer.
According to court documents, Sampognaro was met by ICE agents at his home on Jan. 9, 2004. Armed with a search warrant, they found digital files that contained still and video images of child pornography, official documents show.
During the interrogation, Sampognaro reportedly said that he was "not proud" of the files, but he was "curious as a physician and in general" about the materials pedophiles - men and women who sexually abuse children - are interested in.
In April 2004, a forensic pediatrician who specializes in child abuse cases viewed the evidence confiscated by ICE agents, and concluded that the children in at least 10 of the digital files were under the age of 18 and some under the age of 12.
Before his arrest, Sampognaro was employed as a physician at three medical facilities: the St. Charles Parish Hospital in Luling, the Family Doctors Clinic in Harvey and at West Jefferson Medical Center.
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