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Former UVa neurologist sentenced for child porn and then released

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A former University of Virginia doctor who pleaded guilty to transmitting child pornography got his jail sentence on Tuesday and his freedom on Thursday.

"He was released an hour ago," said Col. Martin Kumer, when asked Thursday afternoon if David Ari Lapides, 38, was still incarcerated at the Albemarle-Charlottesville Regional Jail. Kumer, the jail's superintendent, said that Lapides had been there since July 22, 2021, the day of his arrest.

Lapides pleaded guilty in January to two counts of receiving or transmitting child pornography. He was sentenced on Tuesday to five years in prison for each count, with five years of probation. The sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, meaning that he effectively received a 10-year sentence with all but a year and two months suspended, the time which he was in jail.

"It's a serious and significant sentence," Charlottesville Commonwealth's Attorney Joe Platania, who prosecuted the case. “It's more than double the high end of the guidelines. And he lost his career, his wife, and his children; and he'll have to register as a sex offender."

Previous reporting indicated that the Kik messaging application, which is known for its privacy, detected two videos allegedly shared by Lapides that might contain depictions of sexually exploited minors and then notified authorities.

The case was picked up by a regional Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in coordination with the Charlottesville Police Department.

The videos allegedly depict pre-pubescent girls engaged in sexually exploitive positions, according to a prior report.

That sharing led to the distribution charges and may have ended his career as a neurologist reportedly licensed to practice medicine in 29 states.

His court file is filled with requests from numerous state medical boards asking for records from Charlottesville. That includes the board in Richmond.

"You are hereby given notice that your license to practice medicine in the Commonwealth of Virginia has been mandatorily suspended," said the March 18 notice from the Department of Health Professions.

In a recent New Hampshire proceeding, where Lapides was practicing tele-medicine, the case file includes Lapides fighting to retain his medical license.

Lapides brought a letter from his psychiatrist explaining that he has a recognized psychiatric condition, that he's getting treatment, and that he poses no risk to tele-medicine patients. It didn't work. In April, New Hampshire joined the crowded field of states in revoking Lapides' license.

In advance of a bail hearing last year, 21 friends and family members submitted letters complimenting Lapides. His little brother said he looked up to him.

"When we were young," wrote Benjamin Lapides, "he always made sure I had my dollar and twenty-five cents if the ice cream truck came by, even if it meant he didn't have enough for his own waffle cone."

Local optometrist David Sweeney wrote of how the Sweeney and Lapides families quarantined together during the pandemic.

"The strongest endorsement of David's character I can give," wrote Sweeney, "is that I have trusted my children's lives and safety to him and would continue to do so."

Neither Lapides nor his attorney could be reached for comment.

According to a now-deleted video posted online by UVa, Lapides had sub-specialty training in auto-immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's and epilepsy.

Experts suggest that consumption of electronic child pornography contributes to the harm of children.

Retired forensic psychologist Jeffrey Fracher says that each shared piece of child pornography raises the likelihood that another juvenile will be exploited or abused.

"Almost to a person, and I've seen a lot of these kiddie porn offenders over the years, particularly fathers of kids at home, they are in denial of the harm they're causing," said Fracher. "They would say, 'Huh, I had no idea, I thought it was a victimless crime.' It was one of the most striking things for me and it was so predictable."

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children estimates that at least 100,000 American children a year are victimized, many to fulfill the desires of a person sitting at home on a computer.

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