Child Psychologist Used Artificial Intelligence to Create Child Sex Abuse Images

David Tatum, 41, was found guilty in May of possessing, producing and transporting child sex abuse photos and videos

<p> Mecklenburg County Sheriff

Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office

David Tatum

A North Carolina child psychiatrist has been sentenced to 40 years in prison after he was found guilty in May of numerous charges related to child sex abuse images and videos, according to court records and statements from the U.S. Department of Justice.

David Tatum, 41, who practiced in Charlotte, N.C., was sentenced on Wednesday for using artificial intelligence to create explicit images of children in sexual acts, according to a statement from the DOJ.

In May, he was found guilty of possession, production as well as transportation of child pornography, three separate charges, according to the statement.

Tatum was in possession of these materials between 2016 and 2021, the statement said, citing evidence presented at trial.

The statement also said trial evidence showed that he made “surreptitious recordings of others.” One such recording was of a patient who had turned 18 less than a week prior to the incident.

He also used an artificial intelligence application to manipulate photos of minors to show them in compromised conditions, said the statement. One photo that was modified came at a school dance; another was one commemorating a child's first day of school.

According to court documents reviewed by PEOPLE, Tatum, while on vacation, installed a hidden camera in a bathroom in Maine to capture a 15-year-old girl “in a manner that would capture her nude."

Tatum also recorded one of his patients, a minor, from under her skirt while she was in a therapy session with him, court documents say.

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Lia Bantavani, spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Western District of North Carolina, tells PEOPLE in an email that federal authorities first became aware that Tatum possessed child sex abuse images in September 2021 after a tip from an individual. 

Bantavani cautioned the public to be mindful of the content they post on the internet as AI technology becomes more prevalent and accessible.

In the DOJ statement, FBI Charlotte Special Agent in Charge DeWitt said, "It is horrific to believe anyone would secretly record children undressing and showering for their own sexual gratification. And when the evidence proves that person is a doctor entrusted to help children through difficult mental health situations, it is inconceivable.”

Following his 40-year sentence, Tatum will be on supervised release for 30 years, according to the DOJ statement. He is also to pay restitution of an amount yet to be determined, in addition to a fee of $99,000.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

• With additional reporting by EMILY PALMER

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