Ranzenberger sentenced to 14 years for possession of child pornography

Former Central Michigan University faculty member Mark Ranzenberger was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for possession of child pornography — the maximum allowed by his plea agreement.

Federal Judge Thomas Ludington cited the masochism within the pictures when making his decision.

"These are not simply pictures of children with no clothing," Ludington said.

Ranzenberger was scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 5 at the U.S. District Court in Bay City. Ludington delayed sentencing to Jan. 19 due to discrepancies between the plea deal and the probation officer's assessment of how much time he should serve.

The sentencing comes ten months after the CMU Police Department began investigating Ranzenberger for possession of child pornography. Ranzenberger was arrested May 20 after police found 1,032 images of child pornography on various digital devices he owned and pleaded guilty to the charge on Sept. 27. As part of his plea, Ranzenberger admitted to sexually assaulting a minor three times a week for seven years 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.

The defense and prosecution both agreed to follow the sentencing guidelines despite the probation officer's assessment.

Ranzenberger read a statement to the judge — his first public statement since the allegations arose. In the statement, he apologized to CMU, the College of Communication and Fine Arts, the Journalism Department, department chairs Maria Marron and Jiafei Yin and his family.

"I'm asking these people, particularly my family, for forgiveness, not for me, but for them," Ranzenberger said. "I want the pain to stop."

Ranzenberger said the assaults on the victim stopped because he saw how bad it was in 2002, but began collecting child porn when it "popped up" on his computer, and that he was sucked in again.

"I'm incredibly sorry for what I've done, he said. "I'm not someone to fear."

The person who was sexually assaulted, who asked to not be identified by Central Michigan Life, read an impact statement. 

"Mark Ranzenberger is a psychopath," the statement began. "Psychopaths tend to be smooth, charming and can argue effortlessly. Ranzenberger has gone through his past 61 years charming anyone and everyone in his path. His coworkers didn't know he was a child molester. Heck, his own family didn't know. He hid it, charming them, showing them the side of him he wanted them to see. He was able to talk in front of thousands of people and was able to hide the monster he was with every word he spoke."

The person also cited the psychological and financial effects the sexual assaults have had — citing $100 in monthly expenses for depression and anxiety.

"Someone once told me the most freeing moment of their life was hearing their abuser had died. I can't wait for that moment for myself," the person said.

As part of his plea agreement Ranzenberger cannot be charged for the sexual assaults in federal court. He is, however, facing four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in Isabella County Court for sexually assaulting a minor.

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.

According to the complaint, Ranzenberger told Morrow he thought he had “gotten rid of all that stuff.”

A document was also found in the search detailing how to “groom” a child from birth to age 11 to make them more receptive to participating in sexual acts. Ranzenberger said the document was “purely fantasy.”

U.S. Secret Service Special Agent Chris Cruze said Ranzenberger told investigators he had accessed a bulletin board sometime between 2004 and 2006 and downloaded several zip files containing pornographic images of children.

Ranzenberger resigned from CMU and the Mount Pleasant Planning Commission in March.

A CMU alumnus, 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.