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Should Those Convicted Of Child Pornography Pay Restitution To Victim(s) Depicted In The Content? PC 311

On June 27, 2013, the United States Supreme Court announced that it will grant review of Paroline v. U.S., 12-8561, this fall or winter in order to decide whether victims of child pornography can seek restitution from individuals convicted of viewing their sexual exploitation.

The controversy centers on a lawsuit filed by a Pennsylvania woman, identified only as “Amy”, who was sexually abused by her uncle as a child. Her uncle widely circulated images of the sexual abuse. Now, Amy is seeking 3.3 million dollars in restitution from Randall Paroline, a Texas resident who was convicted of possession of child pornography. Amy was among the girls depicted in the approximately 150 to 300 images of child pornography discovered on Paroline’s computer.

Who Favors Restitution For Sexually Exploited Minors?

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In October 2012, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Amy was entitled to restitution from Randall Paroline and a New Orleans resident, Michael Wright, after they were convicted of possession of child pornography. Images of Amy’s sexual abuse as a minor were found on the computers of both individuals.

According to the Boston Globe, Wright argued that he did not owe Amy restitution for two reasons. First, he alleged that he did not obtain the images of her until after the sexual abuse had already occurred. Second, he claimed that Amy did not have personal knowledge that he had viewed the images.

The majority opinion’s decision stated that a federal statute dictates that a child pornography victim be awarded restitution for the full amount of their losses in each defendant’s case.
“Congress’ intent has finally been recognized by this bold and decisive decision,” claimed James Marsh, Amy’s attorney. “For Amy and the countless victims of this horrible crime, today is the day when the legal system finally delivered justice.”

Justice Garza, writing for the majority, explained that “fears over excessive punishment are misplaced.” He added that “…while the imposition of full restitution may appear harsh, it is not grossly disproportionate to the crime of receiving and possessing child pornography.”

Causal Link Between Possessors And Victimized Pornography Children

In November 2012, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Amy and another victim, “Vicky”, must demonstrate a causal link between their losses and a defendant’s crime of possessing their images.

child pornography restitutionAccording to the Chicago Tribune, defendant Christopher Laraneta pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison. He was also ordered to pay restitution to Amy and Vicky for medical costs, therapy, and lost income. Laraneta appealed the decision after arguing that he was not directly responsible for such losses.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with Laraneta. It reasoned that the “proximate result” requirement applied to all of the two victims’ claimed losses. Since Amy and Vicky had not proven a causal link between their losses and Laraneta’s viewing of the images, the appellate court rejected their restitution case.

Writing for a unanimous three-judge panel, Judge Richard Posner argued that it would be “beyond implausible that the victims would have suffered the harm they did had Laraneta been the only person in the world to view pornographic images of them.”

United States Supreme Court’s Status On Restitution For Child Pornography Victims

As stated, the United States Supreme Court will grant review of Paroline v. U.S., 12-8561 this fall or winter to resolve the division among the lower courts. Specifically, the U.S. Supreme Court will answer the following question:

Must there be a link between the crime of child pornography and the victims’ injuries before the victims are entitled to restitution?

As this decision nears, we would love to hear your opinion on the matter.

Speak To The Child Pornography Defense Attorneys At Wallin & Klarich Today

If you are facing a charge of possession of child pornography, you should contact the Law Offices of Wallin & Klarich immediately. The skilled criminal defense attorneys at Wallin & Klarich have over 30 years of experience successfully defending child pornography cases. Our attorneys will provide you with the most efficient and professional representation from the moment that you retain us. We will scrutinize all of the evidence and use all available defenses in order to provide you with the best opportunity to win your case.

Our offices are located in Orange County, Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina, Victorville, Torrance, and Sherman Oaks. Call us today at (888) 280-6839 for a free telephone consultation. We will be there when you call.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.