How to compensate for child porn baffles
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court considered three options Wednesday for extracting restitution from perpetrators of child pornography: Sock them for their victim's full compensation, none of it or something in between.
The justices didn't like any of those options.
They all wanted “Amy” to be compensated for the estimated $3.4 million cost of her travails, which have made her childhood rape at the hands of her uncle one of the Internet's most popular series of images for traffickers in child pornography.
They did not, however, think that Doyle Randall Paroline, who possessed two images and was sentenced in 2009 to two years in prison, should be held liable for the full amount. And while the federal government called for Paroline and others to pay fair shares for Amy's psychotherapy and other costs, the justices had trouble with the math.
“The woman has undergone serious psychological harm because of her knowledge that there are thousands of people out there viewing her rape,” Justice Antonin Scalia said. “Each person increases the amount of her psychological harm.”
Amy, whose real name is not used in court papers, was raped and filmed at ages 8 and 9. It wasn't until she was 17 that she learned the sex acts had gone viral on the Internet. As a result, her lawyers say, she could not finish college, has had trouble holding a job and will require weekly psychotherapy for the rest of her life
Since her images were discovered, federal authorities have identified more then 3,200 cases in which they were downloaded. They have won court orders for restitution totaling more than $1.7 million in 182 cases.
Deputy Solicitor General Michael Dreeben suggested that federal district court judges should decide how much each offender should pay, perhaps based on simple division. So far, he said, each one would be liable for about $18,000.
How, the justices wondered, should the first offender in such a system be treated if the ultimate number of offenders isn't known?
The case stems from Congress' passage of the Sexual Exploitation and Other Abuse of Children Act, which established penalties and restitution for sexual assault, domestic violence and child pornography. The law called for full restitution but did not specify who should pay what.
Amy's attorney, Paul Cassell, argued that every offender should be held liable for the entire amount and made to pay what they can until she has been fully compensated. Otherwise, he said, it could take many years to reach the $3.4 million goal for Amy's lifetime costs.
While the justices agreed she deserves the money, they didn't agree that Paroline should be asked to pay it all.
How to estimate Paroline's culpability in dollars and cents, however, proved impossible — and for good reason. Federal district court judges have come up with widely varying figures — some of which, Justice Elena Kagan said, appear to have been “plucked out of the air.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Supreme Court’s health care law ruling worries 34 states
- Homeland Security panned for passing on bio-threat technology
- Paul edges Walker in CPAC straw poll
- Monarch butterflies find milkweed supply dwindles
- Most young Republicans back legal marijuana
- Huge, ancient quasar could alter theories on black holes
- Buffet: Berkshire’s built to last
- Mo. gunman kills 7, self, in rampage
- Perceived slights have some New Yorkers longing for Pennsylvania
- Florida fisherman’s high court win spurs call for legal reform
- Gene making human brains bigger found