Restitution For Child Pornography Victims: Is There A Middle Ground?

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Will the U.S. Supreme Court take a middle-ground approach on whether a person convicted of downloading and possessing two computer images of child pornography can be forced to pay $3.4 million in restitution to the child-victim depicted in the two illicit images? That may be the result of arguments yesterday in the case of Amy, who is claiming $3.4 million from Doyle Paroline of Texas, who possessed two photographs of her among 300 images of children engaged in sexual acts, says the Christian Science Monitor. Said Justice Stephen Breyer, “This is a terrible crime, [but] you don't require a person to pay [for] what he didn't cause. This is called restitution, it isn't called fines.”

Paroline's lawyer, Stanley Schneider of Houston, said his client should only have to pay restitution for harms Paroline caused to Amy, not for harms others caused. Deputy U.S. Solicitor General Michael Dreeben suggested the court embrace a mechanism for apportioning the amount of restitution in cases like Amy's, where there are potentially thousands of restitution orders. Paul Cassell of the University of Utah Law School, representing Amy, argued that the statute requires each defendant to pay full restitution. Justice Antonin Scalia protested. “He was convicted of possessing two pictures,” Scalia said. “He's guilty of the crime, but to sock him for all of her psychiatric costs and everything else because he had two pictures of her? Congress couldn't have intended that.” Cassell responded: “Congress did intend that, your honor.”

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