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Crime & Courts

Anchorage therapist who worked with children indicted on child porn charges

An Anchorage man who has worked with children as a clinical therapist and at an advocacy organization for sexual assault victims is facing federal child pornography charges.

Shannon Robert Bell, 53, was indicted Monday on federal charges of possession and distribution of child pornography. Bell was employed as a clinical therapist at multiple inpatient treatment facilities for children, federal prosecutors say.

Bell is accused of distributing pornography involving prepubescent minors, younger than 12, last September. He is also accused of possessing images of child pornography including images involving prepubescent minors in July, according to the indictment handed down this month.

Contacted Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander would not say which facilities Bell worked in. Prosecutors also did not say whether the charges relate to children he encountered through his work.

Bell is a licensed clinical social worker in Alaska, according to state professional licensing records. He had no prior criminal record in Alaska.

From 2005 to 2007, he was employed by the Anchorage organization Standing Together Against Rape as an educator, according to the organization’s director, Keeley Olson. He gave presentations in schools about personal safety. He was never alone with students, Olson said.

Later, Bell volunteered for the organization’s crisis line.

“As a clinical therapist, he trained many helping professionals throughout Anchorage and the state to be prepared to respond helpfully to male victims of sexual assault and abuse,” Olson wrote. “It is with a heavy heart that we process, once more, the devastating impact of yet another adult who has spent years securing trust and access only to do harm and betray that trust.”

Bell then worked at Providence Alaska Medical Center as a mental health therapist from 2007 to 2012, said spokesman Mikal Canfield. The hospital did not say whether Bell had worked with children in that role.

It’s not clear which inpatient residential treatment centers Bell was more recently working in.

North Star Behavioral Health Center has no record of Bell as an employee or contractor, according to Roselle Charlier, a spokeswoman for the hospital’s corporate parent Universal Health Services.

Bell’s attorney, Rex Butler, asserted that his client had not acted improperly with minors in his professional life.

“There is no evidence — and there will be no evidence — that he ever did anything wrong concerning a child," Butler said.

Anyone with information about Bell is asked to contact the Anchorage FBI at 907-276-4441.

If convicted, Bell faces a statutory minimum of five years in prison, prosecutors say. Sentencing guidelines call for a maximum of 20 years, but any actual sentence will be based on the seriousness of the offense and Bell’s criminal history.

Bell entered a not guilty plea during his arraignment Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Smith and was released on his own recognizance, documents filed in the case show. His conditions of release include home detention with GPS monitoring and no internet access, contact with minors or access to pornography.

Bell also has to get treatment, surrender his passport and remain in the “greater Anchorage area” unless he gets prior approval from federal pretrial services officers.

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