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Denight v. United States

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Urbana Division

June 5, 2017

MICHAEL L. DENIGHT, Petitioner,
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Respondent.

          ORDER

          SARA DARROW, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Before the Court are Petitioner Denight's application to vacate his sentence pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2255, ECF No. 1; and the government's motion to dismiss that application, ECF No. 5. For the following reasons, the government's motion is GRANTED and the application DENIED.

         BACKGROUND[1]

         On February 13, 2012, a woman noticed a video recording device in the bathroom of the Espresso Royale coffee shop in Champaign, Illinois. She reported this to staff, who noticed Denight walk toward the women's bathroom and then quickly leave the shop. The camera had disappeared when staff went to look at the bathroom. Denight left several items behind him at the Espresso Royale, including a cellular phone and bills bearing his name and address in Mahomet, Illinois. Police were summoned. Officers searched Denight's name in law enforcement databases, and showed his photograph in a photo lineup to an Espresso Royale employee who had seen Denight leave. She identified Denight.

         Officers went to Denight's house in Mahomet, where he consented to be interviewed. Denight explained that over a course of years, he had used concealed cameras of his own design and construction to record women and girls naked in his home, in public bathrooms, and in shopping center bathrooms. The recording was apparently always surreptitious, and resulted in both video and still images that Denight would store on hard drives and other data storage devices. The police subsequently found cameras and digital storage devices in his home. They did so pursuant to a warrant, which also granted permission to search the cell phone officers had taken from the Espresso Royale. Ultimately, hundreds of images of women and girls were found on the storage devices. A detective later confirmed with at least six women who had been minors at the time the images were taken that the images were of them.

         The United States filed a criminal complaint on February 17, 2012, naming Denight and describing the facts related above, CR ECF No. 1. An indictment followed on March 7, 2012, CR ECF No. 12. The indictment charged Denight with (I-VI) six counts of enticing or coercing the six identified victims to engage in sexually explicit conduct for the purpose of producing visual representations of the conduct, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2251(a) and (e); (VII) a count of possession of child pornography, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 2252(a)(4)(B) and (b)(2); and a forfeiture count. Indictment 1-8. On May 17, 2013, Denight pleaded guilty to all counts. May 17, 2013 CR Minute Entry. On November 25, 2013, the court sentenced Denight to 180 months of incarceration on Counts I-VI and 120 months on Count VII, with all terms of incarceration to run concurrently. Nov. 25, 2013 CR Minute Entry. Judgment entered on November 26, 2013. Judgment, ECF No. 44. Denight did not appeal.

         He filed the instant application for relief under § 2255 on May 26, 2015. After being ordered to respond, the government moved to dismiss.

         DISCUSSION

         I. Legal Standard on a Motion to Vacate Sentence Under 28 U.S.C. § 2255

         28 U.S.C. § 2255, “the federal prisoner's substitute for habeas corpus, ” Brown v. Rios, 696 F.3d 638, 640 (7th Cir. 2012), permits a prisoner incarcerated pursuant to an Act of Congress to seek that his sentence be vacated, set aside, or corrected if “the sentence was imposed in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States, or . . . the court was without jurisdiction to impose such sentence, or . . . the sentence was in excess of the maximum authorized by law, or is otherwise subject to collateral attack[.]” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(a). See Webster v. Daniels, 784 F.3d 1123, 1124 (7th Cir. 2015) (“As a rule, the remedy afforded by section 2255 functions as an effective substitute for the writ of habeas corpus that it largely replaced.”). When presented with a § 2255 motion, a district court must hold an evidentiary hearing on the applicant's claim, and make findings of fact and conclusions of law. 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b). However, “[i]t is well-established that a district court need not grant an evidentiary hearing in all § 2255 cases.” Martin v. United States, 789 F.3d 703, 706 (7th Cir. 2015). The court need not hold a hearing if “the motion and the files and records of the case conclusively show that the prisoner is entitled to no relief.” 28 U.S.C. § 2255(b).

         Pursuant to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (“AEDPA”), a federal prisoner seeking to vacate his sentence has one year to do so, from the latest of:

(1) the date on which the judgment of conviction becomes final;
(2) the date on which the impediment to making a motion created by governmental action in violation of the Constitution or laws of the United States is removed, if the movant was prevented from making a motion by such governmental action;
(3) the date on which the right asserted was initially recognized by the Supreme Court, if that right has been newly recognized by the Supreme Court and made retroactively ...

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