Texas Medical Board suspends pediatric doctor accused of possessing child porn

By Sara Fatima Dhanji, Syan Rhodes - Anchor/Reporter, Phil Archer - Reporter

PEARLAND, Texas - The Texas Medical Board has suspended a pediatric oncologist accused of possessing hundreds of images of child pornography. 

The board released a statement that read, in part: "On June 11, 2015, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended, without notice, the Texas medical license of Dennis Patrick Meehan Hughes, M.D., after determining his continuation in the practice of medicine poses a continuing threat to public welfare. The suspension was effective immediately ... The temporary suspension remains in place until the Board takes further action."

Hughes resigned from his position at at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital Thursday.

MD Anderson released a statement on his resignation Thursday that read: "Dennis Hughes is no longer employed by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.  Following discussions between attorneys for Hughes and MD Anderson today, Hughes resigned his position. MD Anderson has accepted his resignation."

Hughes posted a $50,000 bond and was released from the Galveston County Jail Wednesday evening. He is required to wear a GPS monitor at all times, will have to surrender his passport, is not allowed to access the internet and is not allowed to have any interaction with children, except his own children.

A hearing before federal judge John Froeschner in Galveston Wednesday revealed new details about the case, including that Hughes admitted secretly collecting child porn for 25 years.

FBI agent Kelly Berry was one of the federal agents who arrested Hughes at his home in Pearland.

She testified Hughes' name surfaced during an investigation in February of an unnamed website that that allowed users to post and download child porn. She said the website was not accessible online, but required users to buy software to gain access so that their computer addresses were masked. Investigators were able to manipulate the site to reveal those address, and that led them to Hughes.

Federal agents and Pearland police served a warrant at Hughes home Friday. His wife and three children, aged five to nine years old were there when police arrived.

Berry testified that child pornography was found on a computer at the house, and that Hughes also surrendered a thumb drive containing 10 gigabytes of pornographic images.

Berry said Hughes confessed he used the website under the name " Achmed,"and admitted he had been collecting child pornography since 1990.

She said he told agents that as a devout Catholic, he felt guilty about it, and had confessed to a priest on several occasions, after which he would erase the portable drive he kept the images on. But he had not revealed his use of pornography to anyone else, including his wife, who Berry described as "shocked" when agents arrived at the house.

"That made me believe she did not know." Berry said.

After Hughes arrest, Berry said University of Texas police found child pornography on his work computer in his office at M.D. Anderson Hospital. 

MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital confirmed to KPRC 2 News that Hughes is a pediatric oncologist and an associate professor of pediatrics at the center. Hughes has been placed on administrative leave.

According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, testimony at the Wednesday hearing showed that Hughes was involved in several activities that gave him access to children. Prosecutors said he had been an assistant coach for the Pearland Little League for the past several years, but was not allowed to be head coach in 2015 after he allegedly pushed a child to the ground the year before.

FBI agents said Hughes regularly participates in childrens' activities at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School. He was allegedly scheduled to participate in their vacation Bible school later in June.

The agents said Hughes is a regular fixture at the children's chapel and was known to take pictures of the children at the school. 

Reverend Monsignor William Young said the church did not believe any children there were victimized by Hughes.

"We were surprised, who would not be," he said.

Hughes also coached Pearland Little League until this year when he was banned from coaching after pushing a child to the ground last year. 

In a statement, the league president Rodney Black said," At this time we do not believe the actions of which Dr. Hughes is being accused had any impact on Pearland Little League including its players. However we will continue to monitor the situation and work with law enforcement authorities as needed"?

Agent Berry testified there was no evidence to suggest that Hughes had any inappropriate sexual conduct with children at the school, patients, or his own children.

After bond was set, his attorney, Neil Davis told reporters, " I'm not concerned at all about him being a threat to anybody. He's not a flight risk.... He's a brilliant doctor who is in a really bad situation who needs to get help, and that's what we're trying to do."

School officials notified parents of Hughes arrest Tuesday, saying in part:

"Late Monday afternoon, June 8, St. Vincent De Paul was contacted by the FBI who informed us that Dr. Dennis P. Hughes, a parent of children enrolled at St. Vincent De Paul School, had been arrested for receipt and possession of child pornography.  We are fully cooperating with the investigation."

 Hughes faces federal charges of receipt and possession of child pornography.

He faces from 5-20 years in prison if he is convicted. 

A letter that is being sent from MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital to patients Tuesday reads in part, "We know this is difficult news to hear and we apologize for any distress caused by this communication. Because this is a very recent development, details are limited at this time. However, based upon the information we have received so far, we have no reason to believe the charges involve any of our patients or other MD Anderson staff. MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital faculty and staff are actively cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation. We also are conducting our own internal reviews.

Please know that we, along with MD Anderson leadership, are dedicated to ensuring the utmost security and care of our patients and their families. Because we understand this may be stressful for you and your child, our staff, including social workers and psychologists, are available to provide assistance. We invite you to call our Patient Advocacy office at 713-792-7776 with any questions or concerns you may have."

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