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A Missoula anesthesiologist received a fully deferred sentence after being found with more than 30 child pornography videos on his computer.

District Court Judge Karen Townsend imposed the six-year deferral Tuesday on Dr. Douglas Buxton, meaning the conviction could be scrubbed from his record if he obeys court conditions.

In July 2015 Detective Chris Shermer with the Missoula Police Department traced to Buxton a file-sharing program that included a video of underage girls being sexual abused. According to an affidavit, Buxton admitted to downloading porn that occasionally contained illegal material, which he claimed he would delete. A search of Buxton’s computer found 36 child sex abuse videos, and he was charged last summer.

At the start of the year, Buxton pleaded guilty to a felony for sexual abuse of children by possession of material as part of a plea agreement that capped what prosecutors could request for his sentence.

Before he was charged, the 37-year-old doctor worked with Missoula Anesthesiology, which partners with local hospitals. He specialized in cardiac procedures, according to his attorney.

At Tuesday’s sentencing Michael Scolatti, a psychologist who performed a psycho-sexual evaluation on Buxton, said that in addition to court conditions, Buxton is also being monitored by the Montana Professional Assistance Program and the Montana Board of Medical Examiners, who will decide whether he can keep his medical license. The psychologist said Buxton has been diligent in seeking treatment, including voluntarily entering a four-month inpatient program in Texas.

Townsend acknowledged that Buxton has done more voluntary treatment than anyone she can remember during her time as a judge or a prosecutor.

Scolatti said testing shows Buxton has a “deviant sexual interest” in prepubescent girls, but added he didn’t think Buxton would act on that attraction directly. He said Buxton has also traveled internationally to seek out prostitutes, but that there was no evidence those prostitutes were children.

Under a question from Townsend, Scolatti said Buxton has made advances in recognizing that watching child porn makes him complicit in those children’s sexual abuse.

“Every one of those is basically a crime scene image,” he said.

In his own statement, Buxton said he wasn’t “trying to make excuses,” but that social isolation and depression drove him to watch pornography, and eventually to download and watch child sexual abuse.

“It was one of the few things that let me forget my loneliness,” he said. “I’m glad I was caught, because that stopped me from doing this.”

Deputy County Attorney Brian Lowney urged Townsend to enforce the maximum penalty he could seek under the plea agreement, a 10-year commitment to the Department of Corrections with seven of those years suspended.

Buxton’s attorney Briana Kottke asked for a fully deferred sentence, running down a list of other child porn cases in Missoula where that had been the eventual outcome. She told Townsend that a deferred sentence was the only conclusion to the case that would give Buxton the chance to continue to practice medicine, adding that her client has had to take a job at a glass repair shop since he was charged.

“He has literally gone from all to nothing,” Kottke said. “We believe that Doug has lost enough.”

Kottke also presented the judge with a letter of support from Dr. Matt Maxwell – head of cardiovascular surgery at the International Heart Institute at Providence St. Patrick Hospital – who wrote Buxton was a “great young talent.”

Townsend, who said Maxwell is a personal friend whom she greatly respects, told Buxton she elected to go with a deferred sentence in part because she wants him to have a chance to keep his medical license.

The judge also designated him a Tier I sexual offender. Kottke said as long as he is a sex offender, he will likely not be credentialed to work in a hospital. After a decade, Buxton will be able to petition the court to lift that designation.

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Law and Justice Reporter

Crime reporter for the Missoulian.