Employees at Central Michigan University alerted authorities recently that child pornography had been seen on a university issued computer. Now, William Merrill has been charged with four counts of possessing child pornography, although he had not been arrested as of Monday, November 12. Merrill has been placed on leave and banned from the campus.
58-year-old Merrill was a tenured professor at the university’s College of Education and Human Services; he faces felony charges of possession of child sexually abusive material and promoting/distributing child sexually abusive activity.
According to police, Merrill had allegedly been using his CMU issued laptop to download child pornography. Merrill submitted his resignation to the university on Monday. Other charges Merrill faces include a misdemeanor weapons charge and two felony counts of using a computer to commit a crime. The weapons charge stems from a knife police officers allegedly found in Merrill’s desk.
After employees alerted authorities, Merrill admitted that he downloaded the pornographic material, but claimed he had no more in his possession. However, a police search of his home revealed thousands of files along with 30 CDs containing child pornography.
At last report, Merrill remained suspended from CMU with pay, but had checked himself in at MidMichigan Medical Center-Gratiot’s psychiatric ward in Alma.
As experienced Michigan child pornography attorneys know, these are extremely serious charges that leave individuals convicted facing extreme consequences. Penalties for knowingly possessing child pornographic material include fines of up to $10,000 and jail time of up to 4 years; when this material is promoted or distributed, the penalties become more severe. The requirement to register as a sex offender is perhaps the worst penalty, as it can impact an individual’s life forever, dictating where you may live and making it difficult to secure employment.
Individuals who are being investigated or have been arrested on any sex-related offense must consult with an experienced Michigan sex crimes lawyer immediately to protect their legal rights and freedom.