Judges Split On Restitution In Child-Porn Distribution Cases

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The Associated Press is the latest news outlet to weigh in on the case of “Amy,” the 20-year-old who was sexually abused by her uncle more than a decade ago and is now asking for restitution from those who circulated her images online. Her requests and those from other victims of child pornography are forcing federal judges to grapple with tough legal questions: Is someone who possesses an abusive image responsible for the harm suffered by a particular child? If so, how much should that person have to pay? “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 of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

“It is hard to describe what it feels like to know that at any moment, anywhere, someone is looking at pictures of me as a little girl being abused by my uncle and is getting some kind of sick enjoyment from it. It’s like I am being abused over and over again,” Amy wrote in court papers. Her attorney, James Marsh, is seeking restitution for Amy in 350 cases nationwide. Each request is about $3.4 million. She won’t get that amount in every case; any sum collected would go toward that total to cover Amy’s counseling, medical costs, future lost earnings and lawyer fees. Courts have divided on how to handle the requests. Two courts in Florida ordered restitution of more than $3.2 million; others ordered nominal amounts or denied the requests.

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