Police arrest man on child porn charges

A Mahomet man was arrested on charges of child pornography after a tip led police from the Espresso Royale at 602 E. Daniel St. to the man’s home, according to a Tuesday press release.

Michael Denight, 57, was discovered to have 12 years of footage of naked or partially naked females. According to the affidavit, Denight admitted to Champaign Police Detective Tom Petrilli that he “began recording minors from the bathrooms in his residence beginning in the year 2000 through 2007.”

He was taken into custody on Feb. 16 after a three-day investigation by Champaign Police, led by Petrilli. The investigation revealed Denight had recorded hundreds of images and hours of video footage of women and minors from 2000 to the present, according to the affidavit. Some of the female victims were minors, which violates federal law.

Denight is employed at the United States Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory in Champaign. According to the affidavit, the employer informed Petrilli that “Denight had taken a few weeks off to address personal issues.”

On Feb. 13, an Espresso Royale patron reported to an employee that she had seen a video device mounted to the wall of the women’s restroom. The two then observed a man, now identified as Denight, entering the restroom, then quickly exiting the coffee shop.

Though Denight was gone when an officer from the Champaign Police arrived at Espresso Royale, he had left behind several personal items, including his cellular phone. An examination of these items led police to Denight’s home in Mahomet after showing the Espresso Royale employee a lineup of possible suspects.

During the investigation, Petrilli conducted several personal interviews with Denight, and Patrick Simons of the Champaign Police seized and examined Denight’s computer and information storage equipment.

Denight’s second violation of federal law was transporting the images of minors across state lines to Wyoming “in order to view and masturbate to the images while on business trips,” according to the affidavit.

Denight identified these children as females ages 12 through 15. The affidavit does not state why the girls were in Denight’s Mahomet residence. According to the press release, the girls have been identified and contacted by police.

In the affidavit, Petrilli states Denight admitted to attempting to record two videos from the women’s restroom of Espresso Royale since Feb. 11, and attempted once at Fat Sandwich Company on Feb. 15. Denight estimated he had about 90 minutes of video from Fat Sandwich he had not yet reviewed at the time of his arrest. Other adults found in the footage were recorded at Denight’s place of work.

Champaign police arrested Denight after collecting enough evidence against him to warrant “probable cause.” Police then turned Denight over to U.S. Marshals. He is currently housed at the Dewitt County Jail in Clinton, Ill.

Denight appeared in Federal Court on Friday, where he was informed of the charges against him. He is being held without bond until his next court appearance this Friday at 10:15 a.m. in front of Judge David Bernthal at the Federal Courthouse, 201 S. Vine St., Urbana. Elly Peirson, assistant U.S. Attorney for the Urbana division, is the prosecuting attorney.