Ranzenberger sentencing delayed while judge reviews plea deal

Federal judge Thomas Ludington delayed the sentencing of a former Central Michigan University faculty member accused of possessing child pornography.

Mark Ranzenberger was to be sentenced Jan. 5 but is now scheduled to receive his sentence on Jan. 19 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Bay City. 

Ranzenberger taught journalism and broadcast and cinematic arts classes at CMU since 1999. He previously worked at the Midland Daily News, Huron Daily Tribune and The Morning Sun.

Ranzenberger pleaded guilty to one count of possession of child pornography on Sept. 27. During that hearing, Ranzenberger also admitted sexually assaulting a child multiple times between 1995 and 2002.

The sentencing guidelines for possession of child pornography had been set between 11 and 14 years in prison in exchange for the guilty plea. However, because Ranzenberger admitted to the sexual assault while submitting his plea, the probation officer determined his sentence should include additional time.

Ludington said he was delaying sentencing until he could determine whether the guidelines should be increased.

A sentencing memorandum filed in federal court Dec. 19 by Ranzenberger's lawyer, Jeffrey Rupp, asked the judge for leniency.

"Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done," Rupp wrote, quoting social justice activist Bryan Stevenson. "Despite his age and anticipated period of incarceration, he is eager to move past this and to make amends for his wrong doing. He wants to seek counseling during and after his incarceration. He wants to continue his education and to obtain a doctorate degree."

Regardless of his sentencing in federal court, Ranzenberger will be tried on four counts of first degree sexual conduct in Isabella County Court.

Ranzenberger was arrested May 20 after police found 1,032 images of child pornography on various digital devices in his possession.

CMU’s investigation of Ranzenberger began after a student reported seeing thumbnails of pornographic images on his computer. Ranzenberger unknowingly projected those images onto a classroom overhead screen, the student reported. The Office Information Technology made a remote back up of Ranzenberger’s computer that day.

A U.S. Secret Service criminal complaint filed May 19 states Ranzenberger admitted to CMUPD Sgt. Mike Morrow he had obtained the images from a German website between 2004 and 2008. He said he saved multiple PowerPoint files containing pornographic images into his Dropbox cloud storage account.

The complaint said out of the 1,032 photos obtained, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children logged that 86 of the images had identifiable children within them. The NCMEC had logged 502 of the photos from previous investigations. Another 444 were not logged.