Mahomet man gets 15-year sentence in sexual exploitation case

URBANA — A Mahomet man who admitted that for years he secretly took pictures of nude or partially dressed young girls and women has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

Michael L. Denight, 59, had pleaded guilty in May to possessing child pornography and to sexual exploitation of a minor.

He was sentenced Monday in U.S. District Court in Urbana by Judge Michael McCuskey. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson prosecuted Denight. He was represented by Urbana attorney Steve Beckett.

Denight’s criminal activity first came to light in February 2012 when he was found to have put a video recorder in the restroom of a coffee shop on East Daniel Street in Champaign.

Denight admitted to Champaign police at the time of his arrest that he tried to record activity in ladies’ restrooms at two campus restaurants. That led to police examining his computer, which turned up pictures of girls between the ages of 12 and 15 who were recorded nude or partially clothed in the bathroom of Denight’s own home in Mahomet.

In the course of the investigation, police also learned that Denight, using his knowledge of photography and computers, had recorded women at his former place of employment, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign, and women in dressing rooms at shopping malls.

The incident that led to his arrest involved a woman in the coffee shop who told an employee she believed there was a recording device mounted in the ladies’ restroom. A man, later identified as Denight, was seen approaching the ladies’ restroom and then quickly leaving the coffee shop. When the customer and employee entered the restroom, the device was gone, and the man had left behind several personal items, including his cellphone.

Denight admitted he had recorded the young girls in his home between 2000 and 2007.

Denight has been in custody since the day of his arrest, Feb. 17, 2012. After he completes his prison term, he will have to spend the rest of his life on supervised release.

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