Los Angles Times and ABCNews.com – restitution stories proliferate

In two separate stories today, the Los Angeles Times and ABCNews.com consider the issue of restitution for victims of child pornography and contribute new information to the debate (which still to me doesn’t seem like much of a debate):

From the LATimes:

The issue of criminal restitution in child pornography possession cases emerged last February in Connecticut when a federal judge said he would order a man convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography to pay about $200,000 to Amy. The judge said it was the first criminal case in which someone convicted of possessing illegal images — but not creating them — would be required to pay restitution.

Since then, requests for restitution have picked up as more victims are identified — and as a couple of victims, including Amy, have hired attorneys, said Meg Garvin, executive director of the National Crime Victim Law Institute in Portland, Ore.

Hundreds of requests have been filed nationwide, most of them by Amy’s attorney, James Marsh of New York. Marsh said that as recently as five years ago, restitution would have been impossible because victims wouldn’t have known when someone was caught with an image of them. The Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004 set up a system for notifying the victims. Now, Marsh gets several notices a day on behalf of Amy.

Marie Failinger, a Hamline Law School professor, said allowing restitution in criminal cases is important because many victims don’t have the resources to pursue civil cases. She predicted it would take three to five years for courts to figure out a consistent way to handle requests for criminal restitution.

Meanwhile, victims’ advocates see criminal restitution as one more tool for fighting child porn.

“The people who engage in this stuff need to be held accountable, even if they are not the person who is raping the child,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. “People who are distributing this stuff, people who are downloading this stuff — when they do that, there’s a victim, and there’s a real harm.”

From ABCNews.com:

Not every jurisdiction agrees with the heavy court-ordered payments for those who view such images. Some judges have said restitution goes too far in punishing pedophiles whose only crime is to view photos, but Amy’s lawyer, James Marsh, disagrees, saying the brutality in the “secret society” of child pornography requires tough measures.

“This is not 13-year-olds in bras or sexting or 17-year-old girls gone wild — these are kids who are raped,” said Marsh, a New York City lawyer.

“In one notorious set of images, the father used to put a studded collar around his 6-year-old and wrote on her in what looked like blood, ‘I am Daddy’s little girl, rape me.’ He locked her in a dog cage,” he told ABCNews.com.

Marsh is now seeking restitution in 350 cases that involve photos of Amy, through automated filings to the United States attorneys handling the cases.

In 1995, Marsh helped update a federal law that gives victims the right to sue anyone who produces, distributes or possess their child sex abuse images. It now provides statutory damages of $150,000 for each violation of federal child pornography provisions and was incorporated into the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act and signed by President Bush 2006.

“There is a misunderstanding of the crime, that it’s photos of girls in bathing suits running around the sprinkler,” said Marsh. “And people think pictures are not a big deal, it’s just another greedy lawyer coming to cash in. But they don’t understand the true nature of these criminal syndicates or the experience of the victim. For me, it’s a no-brainer.”

To read both of these excellent stories, visit the LA Times and ABCNews.com.

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