Ranzenberger sentenced to 14 years for child pornography, awaits child molestation sentencing
Former Central Michigan University faculty member Mark Ranzenberger was sentenced to 14 years in prison — the maximum allowed by his plea agreement — on Thursday, Jan. 19 for possession of child pornography in U.S. District Court in Bay City.
Ranzenberger also appeared in Isabella County Court on Friday, Jan. 20, pleading guilty to one count of sexually assaulting a child.
Isabella County Prosecutor Robert Holmes and Ranzenberger's defense attorney William Shirley agreed to set sentencing guidelines at 14 years minimum before being considered for parole. That means Ranzenberger will serve at least 14 years in prison before the parole board reviews his case for release.
As part of the plea agreement, Ranzenberger pleaded guilty to one of four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct in exchange for the others being dropped. His sentencing is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. on Jan. 26.
Shirley said Ranzenberger’s sentences for child pornography and child molestation would be served concurrently — meaning Ranzenberger will serve both sentences at the same time.
In U.S. District Court, Federal Judge Thomas Ludington cited the content of the photos when making his decision.
"These are not simply pictures of children with no clothing," Ludington said.
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, former Journalism 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 was arrested May 20 after police found 1,032 images of child pornography on various digital devices he owned. Police also found in his possession a document describing how to groom a child from birth to age 11 to be receptive to sexual acts.
During a CMU Police investigation, Ranzenberger said the document was “purely fantasy” and denied ever sexually abusing children. He told police he thought he had "gotten rid of all that stuff."
Ranzenberger pleaded guilty to the child pornography charge on Sept. 27. As part of his plea, he 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.
In October, the former Central Michigan University professor was charged with four counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting a child between 1999 and 2003.
As part of the plea agreement, he could not be charged in federal court for the assaults, but he was charged shortly after by the State of Michigan.
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, which sucked him 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 victim 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.
A U.S. Secret Service criminal complaint filed May 19 states Ranzenberger admitted to CMUPD Sgt. Mike Morrow he had obtained about 1,000 images from a German website between 2004 and 2008.
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.