Medical Center Physician Appears in Court on Child Pornography Charges
GALVESTON, TX—A pediatric oncologist at The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has been permitted release with several conditions following his arrest on charges of receipt and possession of child pornography, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Dennis Patrick Meehan Hughes, 49, of Pearland, appeared in federal court this afternoon for a detention and probably cause hearing before U.S. Magistrate Judge John Froeschner in Galveston. While the government moved for detention, the defense rebutted the presumption he be detained. Judge Froeschner found there was probable cause to believe Hughes committed the crimes alleged, but permitted his release, believing sufficient conditions could be imposed that would assure the safety of the community and his presence at all future court appearances. The court ordered Hughes to wear a GPS monitor at all times, not to access the Internet, surrender his passport, have no unsupervised contact with minors (except his children) and not be near places where children regularly congregate, such as schools and parks.
Law enforcement executed a federal search warrant at the residence of Hughes on June 5, 2015, after an investigation suggested he was accessing files from a website known to contain child pornography. At that time, his computers and other items were seized and he was arrested.
The criminal complaint alleges Hughes received and possessed numerous images of child pornography, to include prepubescent girls with their genitals lasciviously displayed. Some of the images also depicted young girls being penetrated, both orally and vaginally, according to the allegations. At the hearing today, the government also offered evidence that images of child pornography were found on his work computer as well.
Testimony revealed Hughes participated in numerous activities that gave him access to children. He has minor children of his own and has been an assistant coach for the Pearland Little League for the past several years. Further testimony revealed an incident in 2014 during which he pushed a child to the ground. As a result, Hughes was prohibited from being a head coach in 2015, according to testimony.
Additional information was also presented that Hughes regularly participates in childrens’ activities at St. Vincent de Paul Catholic School including the Lord’s Day Program in which he sings songs in a classroom with children. In addition, Hughes was allegedly scheduled to participate in their vacation bible school later this month. He was also a regular fixture at the children’s chapel and was known to take pictures of the children at the school.
While the facts presented in court demonstrated he had regular and frequent access to minor children through work, church and community activities, no evidence was presented today that suggested he had any inappropriate sexual contact with them.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years for possession of child pornography and up to five years for the receipt as well as a possible $250,000 maximum fine. Upon conviction and completion of any prison term imposed, Hughes would also face a maximum of life on supervised release during which the court can impose a number of special conditions designed to protect the children and prohibit the use of the Internet. He would be required to register as a sex offender.
The allegations against Hughes are the result of an investigation conducted by members of the Houston FBI, Pearland Police Department, Texas Department of Public Safety and the University of Texas Police Department.
This case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sherri Zack, was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc. For more information about Internet safety education, please visit www.usdoj.gov/psc and click on the tab “resources.”