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Thursday, July 18, 2024

Any limits on child porn restitution?

The Internet and child porn.
The Internet and child porn.

The Supreme Court is hearing arguments in a case that asks whether a victim of child pornography can seek millions of dollars from a defendant who had just two images of her on his computer.

The woman, known only as Amy, is trying to convince the justices in arguments Wednesday that people convicted of possessing child pornography should be held liable for the entire cost of the harms their victims suffer, including in psychiatric care, lost income and legal fees.

Defendant Doyle Randall Paroline is appealing a lower court order holding him responsible for the nearly $3.4 million judgment associated with the ongoing Internet trade and viewing of images of Amy being raped by her uncle when she was 8 and 9 years old.

Also Wednesday, the high court is expected to issue opinions in cases heard in the fall.

Amy’s lawyers estimate that tens of thousands of people worldwide have downloaded and viewed Amy’s images.

Since 2005, there have been about 2,000 prosecutions in federal court that, like Paroline’s, included images of the rapes, for which Amy’s uncle spent about 10 years in prison and paid a few thousand dollars for counseling sessions for Amy.

Courts so far have awarded restitution in 182 cases and Amy has collected $1.6 million. Of that total, $1.2 million came from one man.

Advocates for victims of child pornography argue that the threat of a large financial judgment, coupled with a prison term, also might deter some people from looking at the images in the first place.

The ruling by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans would make it easier for courts to impose large restitution orders, if it is upheld by the Supreme Court. Courts would not have to determine exactly how much harm any one defendant caused Amy. Instead, all defendants would be liable for the entire outstanding amount, raising the possibility that a few well-heeled people among those convicted might contribute most, if not all, of the remaining restitution.

Paroline says there is no link between his conduct and the award ordered by the appeals court.

The Obama administration takes a middle ground, saying victims should be awarded some money from each defendant but not the entire amount. Trial judges should make the determination, the administration says.

The case is Paroline v. Amy Unknown and U.S., 12-8561.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press  All Rights Reserved.

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1 thought on “Any limits on child porn restitution?”

  1. The visceral reaction is that nothing is harsh enough punishment for people who generate, sell, or collect child pornography but I can see a big problem with the current legal situation: Letting a victim collect millions of dollars from the first person convicted of possessing any of her images could actually be an incentive for youthful con artists (or the child’s relatives) to exploit. Since we define “child pornography” as any image that depicts a person under the age of 18 in some sort of sexual pose or activity, a 16 year old girl could take explicit photos of herself and post those anonymously to the internet. These could even be photos of herself with her husband, in a state where the age of consent is 16 and early marriage is permitted! (She would have to take the photos and distribute them in such a way that she could be clearly identified, but the photographer and internet poster could not be determined.) Then she waits a few years until the pictures are widespread and some rich porn-collector gets busted: CHA-CHING! Jackpot! She can retire with millions of dollars at age 22.

    We already have monetary fines for many criminal convictions, and crime victim restitution funds. We aren’t those adequate for making these criminals help their victims?

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