URBANA — A 34-year-old registered sex offender from Tennessee faces federal charges for allegedly picking up a 13-year-old girl from Jefferson Middle School in Champaign.
On Wednesday, a federal grand jury charged Joseph Cain Harrison, 34, of Nashville, with one count of enticement of a minor and two counts of travel with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct.
If convicted of the first count, Harrison faces 10 years to life in prison. Harrison could be sentenced to up to 60 years in prison for each of the other two counts, since Harrison was convicted of aggravated sexual battery in 2000 in Tennessee and served time in prison there.
According to the federal indictment, Harrison was required to register as a sex offender at the time of the offense in Champaign, and federal prosecutors want Harrison to forfeit computer and telephone equipment he allegedly used during the incident.
Harrison also faces charges in Champaign County for child abduction. He is next scheduled to appear on that charge on April 3. He is being held at the Champaign County Jail on $1 million bond.
According to Champaign police spokeswoman Rene Dunn, Harrison made contact and "developed an inappropriate and unlawful relationship" via the Internet with the Champaign girl since last summer, telling the girl he was 19 years old.
The federal indictment said the contacts took place between July 1, 2011, and Jan. 20, 2012.
Assistant State's Attorney Steve Ziegler said the contacts also included telephone calls, which led to Harrison coming to Champaign.
Harrison came to Champaign on Jan. 8 and crossed paths with the girl while she was with her family at two businesses, according to Champaign police Sgt. Dave Griffet.
According to the federal indictment, Harrison traveled from Nashville to Champaign on Jan. 13 and Jan. 17 "for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct with a minor."
Ziegler said Harrison picked her up from school and took her home on the two occasions. A fourth trip was planned, according to Dunn.
After the girl told an acquaintance about the contact, word reached the girl's parents, who contacted police.
Champaign police investigated and obtained a warrant charging Harrison with child abduction for the January incidents.
The warrant was entered into the national Law Enforcement Agencies Data System, and Champaign police contacted Nashville police, who served the arrest warrant and obtained a search warrant for Harrison's home, including telephone and computer equipment there.
Department of Justice spokeswoman Sharon Paul said the federal charges are the result of an investigation by the U.S. Secret Service in Springfield and Nashville, the Champaign Police Department and the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department Sex Crimes Unit.