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Former UVA Associate Dean Pleads Guilty to 3 Child Porn Charges - NBC29 WVIR Charlottesville, VA News, Sports and Weather

Former UVA Associate Dean Pleads Guilty to 3 Child Porn Charges

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Michael Morris, a former University of Virginia associate dean, faces up to 50 years in prison after pleading guilty to child pornography charges Monday. Now, federal prosecutors are sending a message to parents that Morris' case proves predators are everywhere.

The 50-year-old former UVA McIntire School of commerce associate dean pleaded "not guilty" to the federal charges in December. Monday he changed that plea and admitted to sharing and viewing sexually explicit pictures and videos of children and teens. He pleaded guilty to two counts of distributing or receiving child pornography and one count of possessing child porn.

Prosecutors credit a team of investigators from Charlottesville police to the FBI for finding Morris. The feds say Morris started chatting with an undercover FBI agent in January of 2012 on a peer-to-peer subscription website he paid for using his personal and UVA email addresses.  The agent chatted online with someone going by a screen name of "funshooter2006" who shared pictures and videos of child porn. Investigators tracked that file-sharing subscription to Michael Morris’ Crozet home. Computers seized in a raid contained more than a 1,000 images and videos of child pornography.

According to Tim Heaphy, the U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, “these and other files contained in Morris’ file-sharing account largely involved teenage girls engaged in sexually-explicit conduct.”

Michael Morris' attorney says Morris is "remorseful and ashamed." He resigned from UVA in January after being suspended following his arrest in November. Morris is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on July 14.

The feds point to Morris’ conviction as proof predators lurk where they're least expected. Morris lived an accomplished life until last year's raid. “Michael Morris was a smart guy who had a job at the University of Virginia.” Heaphy stated.

What only investigators knew was this high-ranking educator was lurking online in child porn sharing sites. “These dark corners of the internet where child pornographers and predators find each other and exchange images.” Heaphy said.

The feds are using Morris' prominent case to remind child porn possessors and producers that this is not a victimless crime. “Every time you view, download, or share child pornography, you're contributing to the very real physical abuse of a human child,” said Adam Lee, a FBI special agent in charge.

Heaphy says these cases are a priority. Virginia's Western District Court has convicted about 10 people each year since 2010 for child porn. Now a former university administrator is added to the count.

“It demonstrates that this is not just loners, socially ill at ease who in their basement are accessing these materials,” Heaphy said. “We've seen case after case involving people - very responsible positions in our communities - teachers, youth sports coaches, clergy - that are engaged in this type of activity.”

Federal prosecutors urge parents to closely monitor their children's online activity to prevent them from becoming victims of child porn. Federal prosecutors urge parents to closely monitor their children's online activity to prevent them from becoming victims of child porn. Visit the Project Safe Childhood website for more information.

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