University professor given 90 days for child porn possession

Friday, February 16, 2018 - 5:21pm

On Tuesday, a Washtenaw County Circuit Court judge sentenced Clifford Raymond Bingham, who was a professor at the University of Michigan until September 2017, to 90 days in jail and five years of probation for possession of child pornography.

 

A research professor at the University’s Transportation Research Institute and University employee since 1998, Bingham was suspended from work in January 2017 when the Department of Homeland Security executed a search warrant at his office and found pornography on his work computer, University spokesman Rick Fitzgerald told MLive. Bingham officially resigned his position on Sept. 15, 2017.

 

Bingham's sentencing came one day after another former University employee, Pediatric Rheumatology Specialist Mark Hoeltzel, was arrested on charges of possession of child pornography. In December, law enforcement officials found over 200 images of child pornography on a flash drive at Hoeltzel's home. Hoeltzel is also under investigation for a sexual relationship with one of his patients, who was 17 years old when she began to see Hoeltzel for treatment.

 

According to MLive, Bingham's research focused on adolescent development, particularly with youth driving and alcohol usage.

 

Melissa Overton, associate director for the University's Division of Public Safety and Security, told MLive University police began assisting the DHS's investigation of Bingham in January 2017, finding pornographic images of children on both his work and personal computers, though the images on his work computer had not been accessed since 2010.

 

The court charged Bingham with possession of child pornography on three counts, as well as using a computer to commit a crime. Following a plea deal, Bingham pleaded guilty to one count of possession so the other charges would be dropped. Bingham also violated his probation by using a computer while out of jail on bond prior to sentencing. According to the terms of his probation, Bingham is not allowed to use a computer for the entire five-year duration.

 

Assistant Washtenaw County Prosecutor John Vella, who argued the case against Bingham, said Bingham should have received more jail time based on the nature of the pornography. He claimed it featured children as young as two years old. According to the United States Sentencing Commission, the maximum penalty for simple possession of child pornography is ten years in prison.

 

"This is not the typical possession of child pornography case," Vella said, according to MLive. "The pornography that this defendant possessed is rather terrifying, to say the least. This isn't someone who had pictures of, say, a 16 year old on their phone, which is child pornography. What this defendant had were some very disturbing pictures and extremely disturbing videos."

 

At the Board of Regents meeting Thursday night, University President Mark Schlissel said the University would be hiring an outside firm to review its sexual assault policies and practices.