July 14, 2014
A former associate dean at the University of Virginia was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Charlottesville on child pornography charges Monday. Michael Morris, 51, was sentenced to eight years and 10 months in prison for the distribution and possession of child pornography.
In April Morris pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.
During his sentencing, Morris told the court he was sorry for his crimes and apologized to his wife and two daughters. His brother-in-law wrote a letter of support, saying Morris had an addiction and needed help.
An FBI investigation showed Morris had logged onto a child pornography file sharing site over 200 times, sharing and downloading thousands of images and videos from his computer and hard drives. Investigators say Morris did not have any physical contact with any of the victims beyond video chats, where he would encourage teenage girls to masturbate.
The child pornography found in his possession focused heavily on teenage girls, but prosecutors said some of the images depicted victims as young as toddler age.
"People have this wrong impression that child pornography is like a Playboy magazine, with somebody who is sixteen or seventeen years old, that's just not the truth," said Nancy Healey, the assistant United States attorney who prosecuted the case. "The truth of the matter is child pornography involves the brutal victimization-rape or sodomy-of children that are a variety of ages."
A mother of one of the victims wrote a letter on her daughter's behalf, writing her daughter had been abused and the impact would have a lasting impact. FBI agents have not identified any local victims, and they do not believe any of the activity happened while Morris was working at UVa.
"I think the message is that it doesn't matter what you do or who you are, regardless of your stature in the community, your education, regardless of a variety of factors, we will come and prosecute you if you decide to exploit children who are vulnerable," Healey said.
The 106 month prison sentence was four years above the mandatory minimum, but less than what prosecutors has argued for. Once Morris is released from prison, he will be on supervised release for 20 years and must register as a sex offender.