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Press Release

Decatur Man Faces Multiple Charges of Sexual Exploitation of Children

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – A Decatur, Ill., man, Cornell D.A. Johnson, 22, appeared in federal court in Urbana today for arraignment on charges that he sexually exploited children and possessed child pornography. At today’s hearing, a trial date of April 29, 2019, was set for Johnson.

Johnson, of the 1100 block of East Division St., was previously arrested on Feb. 4, 2019, and charged by criminal complaint. At his initial court appearance, on Feb. 5, U.S. Magistrate Judge Eric I. Long ordered that Johnson remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service.

The five-count indictment, returned by the grand jury on Feb. 20, alleges that on four occasions between December 2018 and January 2019, Johnson exploited seven minors to get them to engage in sexually explicit conduct to produce graphic images and to send the images to him. Johnson is also charged with possessing child pornography when he was arrested.

The affidavit filed on Feb. 5, 2019, in support of the criminal complaint, alleges that Johnson impersonated a teenaged female and communicated with minors in several states using Facebook and Facebook Messenger to get the minors, aged four through 16, to send lewd and graphic images to him. According to the affidavit, Facebook detected that pornographic images of children had been uploaded and generated cybertip reports which were sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Using the cybertip information, law enforcement identified children in Alabama, Delaware, and Ohio and identified an email address allegedly used by Johnson, which was used to contact the children.  

If convicted, the statutory maximum penalty for each count of sexual exploitation (four counts) is 30 years in prison; for possession of child pornography, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison.  Each of the five counts includes a potential fine of up to $250,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elly M. Peirson. The charges are the result of an investigation by the Decatur Police Department; the Illinois Attorney General’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force; and, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations.

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


Sharon J. Paul, Public Information Officer

Updated February 25, 2019

Project Safe Childhood