Judge sentences stalker to nine years
URBANA — A Champaign County judge Wednesday called an Urbana man, convicted of stalking his ex-girlfriend for months, "bright but diabolical."
Judge Tom Difanis imposed an extended prison term of nine years on Michael Brooks, 36, who listed an address in the 1000 block of East Kerr Avenue — the same apartment complex in which the woman he victimized lived.
Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar said Brooks pleaded guilty in June to stalking the woman over a period of months earlier this year and to a separate count of obstructing justice for lying to an Urbana police officer about his real name.
Difanis gave him six years on the stalking charge and three on the obstructing charge and used his discretion to make them consecutive.
Lozar said the victim reported that she had dated Brooks for about three years but had broken up with him.
"When the relationship went bad, he began to stalk and surveil her, and engaged in a pattern of calls, e-mails and harassment over the course of months from about March to May," said Lozar.
The prosecutor said Brooks had moved out of state at one point but when he returned to the area, he moved into the same apartment complex as the woman but didn't tell her that.
She told police that he sent her e-mails that told her he was listening to conversations she was having in her home that she thought were private. He also sent her numerous texts and made calls to her.
"He was obsessed with her fidelity even though they had broken up," Lozar said.
The woman obtained an order of protection against Brooks, who avoided being served several times, Lozar said.
Lozar presented the judge with information that on at least 16 occasions when the victim called police to report that Brooks was harassing her, he would be gone by the time police arrived.
"She got frustrated with Urbana police because they could never get the guy. She was pretty terrified," Lozar said.
However, on May 11, when the woman called for help and Brooks was gone again, Officer Elizabeth Ranck moved her squad car across the parking lot of the apartment complex and watched the victim's apartment from a distance. Within minutes, Ranck spotted Brooks standing outside the victim's balcony holding a cellphone up. Lozar said he believed was Brooks using a directional microphone to record what the woman was saying inside her apartment.
Brooks gave Ranck a false name and claimed to be jogging. After the victim identified him, Brooks struggled with Ranck and the two of them went to the ground twice. During the struggle, Ranck said, Brooks' earbuds came out and she could hear he was listening to the police scanner.
Brooks got away from her, returned to his own apartment and locked himself inside. After a standoff of several hours, officers got a warrant, went in and found Brooks holding a large knife to his throat, threatening to kill himself.
Lozar said a sheriff's deputy arrived with a Taser and shot Brooks with it before he could hurt himself or anyone else.
In addition to the woman's testimony, Lozar presented the judge with testimony about information Investigator Tim McNaught obtained from Brooks' computer, including how to pick deadbolt locks, how to hack a person's Facebook account, and multiple searches for information about the victim.
Investigator Duane Maxey also testified about similar conduct that Brooks engaged in with his ex-wife in Honolulu.
Brooks' attorney, Ronald Kesinger of Jacksonville, asked Difanis to sentence Brooks to probation so he could get help for his alcoholism.
But Lozar argued that alcoholism did not explain "the long-running campaign of terror he was using."
"It took a fair amount of planning and sophistication," Lozar said.
The judge agreed, calling Brooks a bright man who had the skills to use electronics to eavesdrop on and surveil the woman. But he also called him "diabolical."
Lozar said Brooks had prior convictions for criminal damage to property, driving under the influence, violation of a restraining order, domestic battery, and for making a false report.
Brooks is eligible for day-for-day good time on his sentence.