Man in federal custody after woman finds restroom camera

Man in federal custody after woman finds restroom camera

CHAMPAIGN — A woman who spied what she thought was a video camera in a business bathroom prompted a police investigation that led to a Mahomet man being charged with possession of child pornography and sexual exploitation of a child.

A release from Champaign police said that on Feb. 13, a woman was in the rest room of the Espresso Royale coffee shop at 602 E. Daniel St. when she saw what she thought was a video recording device.

She told an employee, and she and the employee both saw a man go toward the ladies room, then quickly leave the shop.

When the woman and employee went in the rest room, the device was gone, but personal items were left behind, including a cellphone, that led police to the home of Michael L. Denight, 57, in the 700 block of North Craig Drive in Mahomet.

Champaign police detective Tom Petrilli went to Denight's home on Feb. 16 to speak to him.

According to an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint against Denight in U.S. District Court in Urbana, Denight admitted that he tried to record videos from the ladies' rest rooms at Espresso Royale on Feb. 11 and at Fat Sandwich Company, 502 E. John St., C, on Feb. 15.

He allowed police to take his computer and told them that on his flash drive they would find "dozens if not hundreds more" images of girls he had surreptitiously recorded over the years.

Denight told police the pictures were of girls between the ages of 12 and 15 who were recorded nude or partially clothed in the bathroom of his home in Mahomet.

Denight told police he began window peeping when he was 13 and that, using his knowledge of photography and computers, has recorded women in public rest rooms, the bathroom of his own home, and dressing rooms at shopping establishments since 2000.

Denight identified at least five girls under the age of 18 that he recorded without their consent at his home and two adult women he recorded at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign where he works.

The affidavit said Denight admitted to investigators he has a "perversion" and was willing to help them identify other images on his computers.

On Friday, he was charged in a criminal complaint in federal court with sexual exploitation of a minor, alleging crimes that occurred between 2000 to 2007 and possession of child pornography for allegedly having it on Feb. 16.

U.S. Magistrate David Bernthal ordered that Denight be held in the DeWitt County jail pending a court appearance Friday with a lawyer.

If convicted of sexual exploitation of a child, he faces penalties ranging from 10 to 30 years in prison. A person can be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for conviction of possession of child pornography.

Interim Champaign Police Chief Holly Nearing applauded the quick action of the woman who noticed the recording device and the Espresso Royale employee who helped her.

"This is an important case for us to continue to use our resources to investigate because the allegations involve the shocking invasion of personal privacy, in particular to youth," said Nearing.

The Champaign Police Department asks that anyone who might have more information about Denight call them at 217-403-6900.

Callers can remain anonymous by calling Crimestoppers at 373-8477. Information can also be sent by anonymous web tip by going to: http://www.373tips.com or by text tip: Keyword CCTIP plus the information to 274637 (CRIMES).

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