CHARLOTTE, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — A Charlotte child psychiatrist has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for using artificial intelligence to make child pornography, according to the United States Attorney’s Office

Court documents show between 2016 and 2021, 41-year-old David Tatum possessed pictures and videos of child pornography. After his prison sentence, he is ordered to 30 years of supervised release. 

“We became aware of Tatum’s conduct sometime in September 2021 after an individual who knew Dr. Tatum contacted the FBI to report that Tatum was in possession of what that person suspected may have been child pornography,” U.S. Attorney Dena King said. 

Trial evidence shows around July 2016, Tatum secretly recorded a minor while they were undressing and showering. He also made similar secret recordings of others, including of one of his patients during an outpatient visit who had just turned 18 five days before the recording. 

According to an Atrium Health spokesperson, Tatus was employed with the hospital system from October 2016 to December 2021. 

“We are deeply troubled that someone entrusted to heal and guide children could be involved in such disturbing and unacceptable behavior,” an Atrium Health spokesperson said. “When we first learned of the possibility, we took immediate action to keep Dr. Tatum away from patients, blocking his access to patient and organizational information.” 

Atrium said after learning of the allegations, Tatum was immediately suspended, then terminated from his contract to practice with the health care provider. 

“It is important to note Dr. Tatum was not found to have had any improper contact with or images of any of our patients. In no way does Dr. Tatum’s behavior reflect the values of our organization, nor what we nor our patients expect from our care providers.”  

Officials say Tatum used AI to digitally change clothed images of minors making them sexually explicit. Specifically, he used the tools to create child pornography.  

“Two of the images for an example that were used were modified from a school dance photograph and then another was a photograph commemorating the first day of school,” King said. 

Dr. Rebecca Portnoff is the data science director, whose organization Thorn, fights against child sexual exploitation. 

“The sad reality is that any kind of new or emerging technologies has the capability of being misused,” Portnoff said. 

Thorn and her team builds technology, like AI, to help prevent children from becoming victims of sexual abuse online. 

“So, what that looks like is accelerating victim identification, stopping revictimization, as well as preventing abuse from happening in the first place,” she said. “We are seeing generative AI is being misused to create AI generated child sexual abuse material, images that depict children in these types of abusive contexts.”