Bill would ensure pay for child porn victims

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WASHINGTON -- A day after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected as excessive a $3.4 million restitution award for a Pennsylvania child pornography victim, Sen. Pat Toomey was working on legislation to ensure just compensation for those similarly abused.

The Wednesday decision sharply limits restitution orders against people who view child pornography to an amount equal to the "harm" each defendant caused.

Justices acknowledged that amount is impossible to calculate with any precision, but directed lower courts to use judgment and discretion to decide. In dissenting opinions, four justices also noted that Congress could provide more direction legislatively by amending a 1994 law relating to victims' compensation.

Mr. Toomey, for one, wants to try.

"The Supreme Court's decision is very unfortunate, especially for victims of child pornography who are seeking justice," the Pennsylvania Republican said Thursday. "The Supreme Court called on Congress to fix the statute in question so victims can get full restitution, and I will be leading the charge."

Early next week, he plans to introduce the "Justice for Amy Act," named for the victim who is known in court papers only by her first name.

His legislation conforms to arguments Amy's attorney, Paul G. Cassell of Utah, made during Supreme Court oral arguments in January. The bill provides all defendants who abuse a child, produce child pornography or traffic in child pornography to be held jointly and severally liable.

That means that any one defendant can be held liable for the full $3 million; that defendant can then sue others for indemnification.

Mr. Cassell said passage of the legislation would not affect Doyle Paroline, the defendant in the "Amy" case ruled upon Wednesday, but it would allow Amy to more easily be compensated from others going forward.

The online images of her being raped by her uncle 16 years ago are still being viewed and downloaded multiple times a day.

Without congressional intervention, Wednesday's Supreme Court decision leaves victims of child pornography to collect damages piecemeal over many years.

More than 175 people have been convicted of possessing Amy's images, which attorneys say caused her $3.4 million in damages including ongoing therapy, lost wages and attorney's fees. She already has collected about $1.75 million in restitution awards that have varied from as little as $50 to as much as $1.2 million.

Paroline, of Texas, had been convicted five years ago of possessing child pornography, including two images of Amy that were taken when she was 8 or 9 years old.

His attorney, Stanley G. Schneider, had argued that Paroline had caused too little harm to warrant any restitution. Untold others also had viewed her images and continue to, he argued.

The court rejected that argument.


Bureau Chief Tracie Mauriello: tmauriello@post-gazette.com, 1-703-996-9292 or on Twitter @pgPoliTweets.

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