Feds charge Bountiful doctor, warn of growing child pornography problem

SALT LAKE CITY — A Bountiful doctor facing multiple charges of sex abuse of a child in state court has now been indicted by a grand jury in federal court.

Nathan Clark Ward, 55, was indicted Sept. 13 in U.S. District Court on charges of production of child pornography, possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography.

Child pornography has become such a prevalent problem that it is almost like “background noise” to the general public, U.S. Attorney for Utah John Huber warned Tuesday in announcing the indictment.

“This is an issue that we should not have to wait for a doctor to engage in alleged exploitation before we take note of the problem,” he said.

Huber said his office prosecutes an average of 40 child pornography cases a year. And by the time such a case gets to the federal level, it usually involves the “worst of the worst offenders.”

Today’s perpetrators aren’t men in trench coats in a dark alley, but rather someone who has already gained a victim’s trust, Huber said.

“They are in every demographic, every walk of life. We have arrested millionaire businessmen, and we have arrested the unemployed, teachers, doctors, public safety officials, day care owners, camp counselors. What they all have in common is the same heinous crime,” said Eric Barnhart, the special agent in charge of the FBI’s Salt Lake division.

“These are the people who are subjecting our children to unspeakable sexual and emotional abuse.”

Huber said the video and audio recordings his prosecutors investigate of “sexual violence and abuse upon children” is “disturbingly prevalent.”

“These are not pictures of young children in underwear. This is the recording of assault,” he said.

Huber also announced Tuesday that the investigation into Ward has led to the indictment of a Lehi man who was allegedly exchanging child pornography with the doctor.

Robert Edwin Francis, 41, was indicted last month with production of child pornography, receipt of child pornography and possession of child pornography.

When Ward was originally arrested, a probable cause report indicated that Ward was being investigated for online conversations in which he allegedly discussed raping young girls, ages 13 and 15, and described “desires to rape females and minors.”

Federal prosecutors believe the other person involved in that conversation was Francis.

As for Ward’s new federal indictment, prosecutors say he coerced a child born in 1998 to “engage in sexual explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual depictions of such conduct,” knowing that “such visual depictions would be transported across state lines and in foreign commerce, by any means including the internet,” charging documents state. The federal indictment against Ward was unsealed Friday.

Ward began distributing child porn on an unknown date and continued until Aug. 16, according to the indictment.

The longtime, popular doctor was charged Aug. 7 in 2nd District Court with 11 felonies, including sodomy on a child, aggravated sex abuse of a child and forcible sodomy, all first-degree felonies; plus two counts of forcible sex abuse and six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, all second-degree felonies.

State charging documents accuse Ward of sexually abusing a 13-year-old girl in 2012 in Davis County, and sexually abusing a girl between 2012 and 2015 whom he “occupied a position of special trust” over. The charges do not indicate if the girl was one of Ward’s patients.

The charges also say that “between January and September 2016, (Ward) possessed, viewed or shared at least six images of child pornography.”

Huber, Barnhart and others in law enforcement held a press conference Tuesday to encourage the public — particularly parents — to help in the fight against child exploitation and child pornography by having tough talks with their children.

Huber said families don’t talk as much about “stranger danger” as they used to.

“We don’t talk so much about that anymore because most of these perpetrators exploit relationships of trust,” he said. “This is someone who looks like everybody else who lives pretty close.”

Steve Cagen, head of Homeland Security Investigations in the West, said the business of catching child porn perpetrators is booming. Homeland Security made 2,400 arrests in 2015, and 2,600 in 2016, he said.

And rather than dark alleys, child pornography is being exchanged like keepsakes on the darknet, where chat rooms filled with pedophiles gather to encourage, validate and normalize the behavior of other pedophiles, Huber said.

“We do see actual (child porn) collections that are talked about, discussed, bartered for in these internet chat rooms of pedophiles. And they name them, these collections. They are like baseball trading cards. It’s that ugly,” he said.

Ward was originally arrested July 20. He was rearrested Aug. 4 and held in jail without bail. On Friday, a federal judge ordered that Ward remain behind bars pending trial, which is scheduled for Nov. 20. His next hearing on the state court charges is scheduled for Oct. 25.

If convicted, the maximum penalty for production of child pornography is 30 years in federal prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. Distribution of child porn has a maximum 20-year federal prison sentence while possession of child pornography is punishable by up to 10 years.

Ward specialized in obstetrics and gynecology. He has been in practice for more than 25 years. He was suspended from Lakeview Hospital following his first arrest.