Former CMU professor William Merrill sentenced to 70 months in prison for child pornography possession


Disgraced Central Michigan University professor William Lord Merrill, 58, was sentenced to 70 months in prison Tuesday at U.S. District Court in Bay City for possession of child pornography, according to court documents.

Merrill, who taught, among other courses, classes on Internet censorship at CMU, was arrested for possession of more than 100,000 images of child porn on Dec. 19.

He was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington.

He entered a guilty plea in March, admitting to receiving child pornography. In exchange for the guilty plea, federal prosecutors dropped a second charge of the same crime and another count of child pornography possession.

Merrill could have faced as much as 20 years in prison. Instead, he will serve just above the minimum sentence of 60 months.

He resigned from CMU in November after being suspended by the university.

According to court documents, Merrill knowingly received child pornography on or about July 26, 2003, and he said he knew the material constituted child pornography as defined by Title 18 in the United States Code 2256.

The FBI seized Merrill’s hard drive from his CMU office, in addition to the hard drive that contained child pornography.

Additionally, the U.S. attorney agreed Merrill assisted the authorities in his prosecution by notifying authorities in a timely manner that he intended to plead guilty.

When a warrant was issued on Nov. 5 to search Merrill’s Mount Pleasant home and office at CMU, items seized and disposed of included all computers, laptops, iPads, VHS tapes, CDs, DVDs, hard drives, phones, media storage drives, knives, handcuffs, USB flashdrives, iPods and prescription pills, according to court documents.

Merrill was charged Nov. 8 in Isabella County with a four-count felony, consisting of one count of possession of sexually abusive material, one count of distributing or promoting child sexually abusive activity and two counts of using a computer to commit a crime, according to court records.

The investigation began when CMU’s information technology staff noticed a large amount of data being transmitted from a single computer on the network.

After tracking the source of transmission, IT disconnected Merrill’s computer from the Internet in hopes that the user would contact IT for support, according to an affidavit. After further inspection of his computer, an IT worker discovered images and videos of child pornography.

Merrill was scheduled for a preliminary hearing in Isabella County Trial Court on a four-count felony relating to child porn, but federal prosecutors served a warrant for his arrest. He was then sent to Bay City.