US Supreme Court Sets Aside $3.4 Million Verdict for Child Porn Victim … SCOTUS Says: May Claim Damages from Every Person Caught with Illegal Images

 

The case was Paroline vs. United States:

The SCOTUS has setaside a$3.4 million verdict again a Texas man named Doyle Paroline. The 5-4 decision upholds part of the Violence Against Women Act which calls for restitution to victims of child pornography, but it has some up with a compromise position on how to set the monetary amount.  The SCOTUS majority opinion says those who possess the child porn images must pay something because they have contributed to the abuse. In essence, the Court ruled that a federal district court judge must calculate how much to assess against Paroline personally. The WAPO points out that the 5-4 decision was not the typical SCOTUS left-right split, which although the opinions were based on different rationals, at least issues like child porn are dealt with not along political lines.

SCOTUS

Victims of child pornography whose images of sexual abuse have circulated on the Internet may claim damages from every person caught with illegal images, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday.

But justices rejected the idea that a single person who possesses such images may be assessed the full amount due to the victim, setting aside a $3.4-million verdict against a Texas man in a favor of a woman whose childhood rape was photographed and widely circulated on the Internet.

The 5-4 decision upholds part of the Violence Against Women Act which calls for restitution to victims of child pornography, but it adopts a middle-ground position on how to set the amount.  It said those who possess the images must pay something because they have contributed to the abuse.

“It makes sense to spread the payment among a larger number of offenders in amounts more closely in proportion to their respective causal roles and their own circumstances,” said Justice Anthony Kennedy. “This would serve the twin goals of helping the victim achieve eventual restitution for all of her child pornography losses and impressing upon offenders the fact that child pornography crimes, even simple possession, affect real victims.”

His opinion in Paroline vs. United States leaves it to federal judges to decide on the proper amount in each case.

The case began when a young women using the name “Amy” learned the photos of her sexual abuse as an 8 year old child were circulating on the Internet. Sadly, it was her uncle, Eugene Zebroski, that was her abuser. Initially, a federal judge refused to order Paroline to pay restitution because there was no proof his offense caused or contributed to Amy’s abuse. However, a federal appeals court in New Orleans would overturn that decision and ruled for Amy and said Paroline was responsible for paying the full amount she had sought, a total of $3.4 million.

Paroline was among an estimated 71,000 people worldwide who viewed the attacks.

The full decisions can be read HERE.

Much, much more at the SCOTUS Blog, Opinion analysis: Dividing the duty to pay for child porn.

Each individual — among hundreds and maybe thousands — found guilty of keeping and looking at images of a child being sexually abused must pay the victim something more than a “trivial” sum, but none of them can be required to pay for all that the victim has lost, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday in a five-to-four decision.

The ruling in the case of Paroline v. United States, settling a dispute among lower courts on a mandatory law of restitution to victims of child pornography, refused to establish a specific formula for allocating the financial blame, telling federal trial judges to “do their best,” with a few suggestions for starting points.  Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the majority opinion.



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