D.C. Circuit Weighs Child Pornography Restitution Case
The thorny question of how to calculate restitution to victims of child pornography came back before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit last week, with the U.S. Department of Justice defending a proposed formula.
Friday’s arguments marked the second time the court considered the case of Michael Monzel. Monzel pleaded guilty to one count each of distribution and possession of child pornography. A trial judge ordered Monzel to pay $5,000 to a victim known by the pseudonym “Amy,” but on remand from the D.C. Circuit reduced the award to zero, finding the government didn’t produce evidence on how much of Amy’s losses he caused.
The government appealed, arguing U.S. District Judge Gladys Kessler was wrong to reduce the award and that its proposed formula – dividing a victim’s total losses by the number of individuals found criminally responsible and then adjusting based on certain factors – represented a fair solution. Monzel’s lawyer, Federal Public Defender A.J. Kramer, said the formula was arbitrary and that Kessler was right to reduce the award after the government presented no evidence linking his client to specific losses.
Courts across the country have struggled to find a consistent way to calculate damages in child pornography cases. As lawyers on both sides noted, there are often an unpredictable number of defendants, especially if the images are distributed online, and it can be difficult to know the extent an individual defendant who viewed or possessed an image was responsible for harming the victim.
To find out what happened at the D.C. Circuit, read the rest of this post at the BLT.