Child Pornography Victims Abandoned at the Supreme Court
Last week, the Solicitor General filed this brief with the United States Supreme Court which effectively denies child victims the ability to obtain criminal restitution from the thousands of child molesters and pedophiles who collect and share child pornography.
The defendant in the case currently pending before the Supreme Court, Amy v. Monzel, admitted to law enforcement that he sexually abused his granddaughter and traded images of girls being sexually abused. A search of his home uncovered more than 800 child sex abuse images including pictures of Amy, the victim in this case. The defendant pleaded guilty to distributing child pornography and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
The District court ordered the defendant to pay just $5000 in criminal restitution to Amy, a girl whose rape and sexual abuse images were found in his collection. That award was overturned on appeal. Amy then appealed to the Supreme Court where three amici joined her in asking the Court to take the case.
Despite supporting the victims in the lower courts, the government abandoned victims of child pornography at the Supreme Court by asking the Court not to review the Court of Appeals’ denial of restitution. The Solicitor General’s position on this issue effectively strips victims of child pornography the ability to obtain criminal restitution from any of the thousands of child molesters and pedophiles who collect and share their child sex abuse images.
The Solicitor General is essentially asking the Supreme Court to uphold a standard of proof that government cannot meet. During the past two years, the government has failed in hundreds of cases throughout the country to convince federal judges that the standard they are now defending in the Supreme Court will result in any restitution for victims of child pornography. In July, the government lost this case in the Ninth Circuit on just this issue and decided not to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Victims of child pornography deserve their day in court. Three amicus filed briefs in the Supreme Court supporting this basic right, highlighting the importance of this issue for children who are sexually abused and exploited through child pornography.
As a candidate in 2008, President Obama supported the death penalty for defendants convicted of raping a child. Now the Solicitor General is promoting a standard which will save some of these same defendants from paying restitution to their victims. While millionaire child molesters are housed in government prisons at taxpayer expense, child sex abuse victims like Amy must rely on public assistance and charity to take care of their most basic needs.
When Congress—led by then Senator and now Vice President Biden—passed the child pornography restitution statute in 1994, it made restitution mandatory for victims. In fact, Congress felt so strongly that every child pornography victim receive the “full amount” of their losses that it used the word mandatory twice in the statute. Despite this clear requirement, federal courts throughout the country are confused and their often arbitrary approaches have led to widely differing outcomes for victims. A deepening split among the Courts of Appeals and the district courts require a decisive decision and direction that only the Supreme Court can provide.
Only the Supreme Court can conclusively guarantee a child pornography victim’s right to restitution. Justice delayed is justice denied. Victims of child pornography have waited and suffered long enough.