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Grand Jury Indicts Mahomet Man Previously Arrested, Charged with Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, Possession of Child Pornography

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 7, 2012

Urbana, Ill. – A federal grand jury today returned an indictment charging Michael L. Denight, 57, of Mahomet, Ill., with six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of possession of child pornography. The indictment also seeks criminal forfeiture of an extensive listing of Denight’s computer, camera, and related equipment.

The indictment alleges that for each of the six counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, Denight used a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the conduct. The indictment alleges that Denight committed the offenses in Mahomet during various time periods, from one and one-half years to four years, from 2000 to 2005. Further, the indictment alleges that Denight possessed child pornography on or about Feb. 16, 2012.

If convicted, the statutory penalty for each count of sexual exploitation of a minor is a mandatory minimum of 10 years in prison and up to 30 years in prison. For possession of child pornography the penalty is up to 10 years in prison. The defendant may also be ordered to remain under supervised release for life following any term of imprisonment.

“Federal statutes provide for significant terms of imprisonment upon conviction for offenses related to the sexual exploitation of a minor,” stated U.S. Attorney Jim Lewis. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office works closely with the respective state’s attorney’s office to determine the most appropriate venue for prosecution.”

Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz said, “My office defers prosecution to federal authorities at this time. While the affidavit supporting the federal criminal complaint also contained allegations of illegal activity related to adult victims, under Illinois law, potential available penalties provide for sentences of only one to three years in prison or probation. Therefore, I am confident that the appropriate venue for prosecution rests first with the federal court.”

The charges are being investigated by the Champaign Police Department and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Office of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly Peirson with the cooperation of Champaign County State’s Attorney Julia Rietz.

Denight was previously charged in a federal criminal complaint filed on Feb. 17, 2012. On Feb. 24, U.S. Magistrate Judge David G. Bernthal ordered that Denight remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendant is presumed innocent unless proven guilty.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

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