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11 employees across multiple Michigan universities arrested on child porn charges since 2011

Posted: 6:47 PM, Jan 10, 2019
Updated: 2019-01-11 18:22:53Z

When the FBI raided the work space of University of Michigan lab researcher Michael Zeidler in December of 2018, it wasn't the first time investigators stepped foot on campus to dissect the behavior of a school employee during a child pornography probe.

In fact, at least eleven employees at universities across the state of Michigan have been arrested since late 2001 on similar charges.

2011

Stephen Jenson - University of Michigan

According to the criminal complaint against former University of Michigan resident physician Stephen Jenson. in May 2011, an employee entered a secured computer room at University of Michigan Hospital. The employee opened files on a thumb drive plugged into a compute, one of which was child pornography.

A search warrant execution eventually discovered approximately 97 images and four videos of suspected child pornography on hard drives and thumb drives.

Jenson pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Stephen Jenson Criminal Com... by on Scribd

2012

William Merrill - Central Michigan University

William Merril was a former professor at Central Michigan University's College of Education and Human Services.

According to the criminal complaint against Merrill, A CMU IT staffer noticed irregularities in network traffic coming from a specific computer. After identifying the computer as Merrill's, an inspection of it discovered files containing child pornography.

Investigators eventually discovered nearly 5,500 images of child pornography and at least 26 videos depicting the exploitation of children.

Merrill pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nearly six years in prison.

William Merrill Criminal Co... by on Scribd

Robert Thaler - Saginaw Valley State University

Thaler was an assistant professor of sociology at SVSU.

In April 2012, SVSU became aware of improper use of a university computer and launched an investigation.

He was arrested and charged in 2013.

Thaler would pleaded guilt in a plea deal and receive five years of probation.

Robert Thaler complaint by on Scribd

2015

Steven Germinder - University of Michigan

According to the criminal complaint against former U of M health finance staffer Seven Germinder, in May 2014, a University of Michigan hospital employee discovered an image depicting betiality on Germinder's work computer.

An examination of the computer discovered other images of bestiality and animated images depicting "sexual conduct" between adults and children.

A search warrant execution would eventually uncover more than 3,000 images of child porn on another computer.

Germinder would plead guilty and was sentenced to more than 17 years in prison.

Steven Germinder Criminal C... by on Scribd

2016

Mark Ranzenberger - Central Michigan University

According to the criminal complaint against former Central Michigan University journalism professor Mark Ranzenberger, In March of 2016, CMU staff alerted the FBI about criminal activity regarding the downloading of child pornography to a university computer.

The CMU investigation began when a class witnessed Ranzenberger access dropbox images that contained pornography.

An examination of Ranzenberger's computer discovered child pornography. A search warrant of his office would discover more disturbig images, including penetration of an infant and a guide on how to groom a child for sexual abuse.

More than 1,000 imaged of child pornography were seized.

Ranzenverger pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 14 years for child porn charges. He was later sentenced on child molestation charges.

Mark Ranzenberger Criminal ... by on Scribd

Jason Kahler - Saginaw Valley State University

In August 2016, Kahler, a former english professor at SVSU, was arrested after child pornography was discovered on a personal computer belonging to Kahler.

He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to more than three years in prison.

Kahler SVSU Guilty by on Scribd

James Cavalcoli - University of Michigan

According to the criminal complain against former University of Michigan professor James Cavalcoli, in 2013 a sting operation was setup on the web where an FBI special agent posed as a Florida father with a 13-year-old son.

Cavalcoli responded and over a nearly two-year period, communicated with the undercover agent, eventually making a plan to meet the father and his son in order to have sex with the young boy.

He was arrested when entering a Florida hotel.

Cavalcoli pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

James Cavalcoli Criminal Co... by on Scribd

Larry Nassar – Michigan State University

Former Michigan State university physician Larry Nassar is the centerpiece of an investigation that rocked the sports world.

In the shadow of that case was Nassar's guilty plea to three counts of child pornography. He was sentenced to 60 years in prison, 20 years for each count

Nassar MSU Indictment by on Scribd

2017

Clifford Bingham – University of Michigan

Clifford Bingham pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 90 days in jail for child pornography charges.

The guilty plea stemmed from a 2017 search warrant that found graphic material on his University of Michigan computer while he was a professor in the Transportation Research Institute, according to a report from MLive.

Clifford Bingham by on Scribd

2018

Mark Hoetzel – University of Michigan

According to the criminal complaint against Hoetzel, Ann Arbor law enforcement was informed of an investigation into then University of Michigan edicine physician Mark Hoetzel by the State of Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

Through the course of the investigation, detectives eventually seized hard drives from Hoetzel with more than 200 images of child pornography.

Hoetzel pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Hoetzel - UofM Complaint by on Scribd

Michael Zeidler – University of Michigan

According to the criminal complaint against suspended University of Michigan Health lab researcher Michael Zeidler, his home and office were raided in December 2018 after an undercover investigation flagged a University of Michigan IP address.

Michael Zeidler Criminal Co... by on Scribd

The former employers of those charged and sentenced were reached for comment. Those responses are below:

University of Michigan:

Incidents involving child pornography are heinous, criminal and have no place at the University of Michigan.

U-M takes decisive, immediate action with any employee who is charged with the possession of child pornography or related offenses. Employees charged with such crimes are immediately suspended and the university cooperates completely with the appropriate investigating agency.

As one of the state’s largest employers with more than 50,000 faculty and staff members, the overwhelming majority of U-M employees are dedicated public servants who are carrying out the university’s public missions of education, research and patient care every day in the best possible way.

In the time since 2011, the university has taken extraordinary measures designed to make all U-M campuses as safe as possible for employees, students, patients and visitors. Our Division of Public Safety & Security takes a comprehensive approach to the safety of the university community. Among the specific measures taken in recent years are these:

• Performing background checks on all new employees since 2013.

• Commissioning periodic outside reviews of policies and procedures.

• Making sexual misconduct reporting more visible with dedicated website.

• Updating policies and procedure to reflect best practices and legal guidance.

• Making sexual misconduct training for all employees mandatory.

• Implementing a policy that prohibits faculty-student romantic relationships.

Saginaw Valley State University:

In the instances involving SVSU, dating back to 2012 and 2016, the accused professor was placed on unpaid suspension, banned from campus, and did not return to the university. The 2012 case did involve the use a university computer; the improper use was discovered by SVSU personnel and our university police were involved in the investigation.

We installed computer hardware and software several years ago intended to block access to child pornography, among other things.

The 2016 case had no connection to the university, beyond the individual's employment.

The well-being of our students and our community is always our highest priority, and that was demonstrated in our swift, decisive action in both of these instances.

Central Michigan University:

At Central Michigan University, we take matters like this veryseriously and have strict policies against this kind of conduct. Public safety is an absolute priority.