Supreme Court ruling likely to impact landmark Seattle child porn case

Supreme Court ruling likely to impact landmark Seattle child porn case

Supreme Court ruling likely to impact landmark Seattle child porn case

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by Chris Ingalls / KING 5 News

NWCN.com

Posted on April 23, 2014 at 11:37 AM

Updated Wednesday, Apr 23 at 4:03 PM

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Wednesday is likely to have an impact on a Seattle child porn case in which the now adult victim sought restitution from a Seattle man who downloaded images of her abuse.

The Supreme Court ruled that a federal law limits how much money victims can receive from people who viewed their images online.

In the case before the high court, the justices threw out a nearly $3.4 million judgment in favor of a woman whose childhood rape has been widely viewed on the internet.

The case is very similar to the Seattle federal case involving a woman identified only a “Vicky”, who was raped by her father many years ago.  The videotape of the crime is described as one of the most widely viewed child porn videos on the internet.

“Vicky” is seeking restitution from hundreds of men who have been prosecuted for downloading the tape.

One of those men is Josh O. Kennedy of Seattle, who has fought any attempts to pay restitution.  He was featured in a KING 5 story about “Vicky’s” case in 2012.

"Vicky's" case mirrors the one involving a victim identified only as “Amy,” whose case was heard before the Supreme Court.

The justices said in a 5-4 ruling that courts can order people convicted of downloading child pornography to pay restitution to their victims, but only to the extent that there is a strong tie between the victim’s losses and the convict’s actions.

The court said Congress would have to change existing laws.

"Vicky's" Seattle lawyer, Carol Hepburn, says after reviewing today's ruling it doesn't seem as much of a blow to her client's cases across the country as she first thought.

"The court's recognition of the harm done to victims is profound.  It's really, really good," Hepburn said of the Justice's sympathy of child porn victims images being viewed over and over again.

"I can work with this," she said.

She says the High Court's ruling does limit the amount of restitution each individual child porn possessor might pay.  But the ruling says they can be ordered to pay restitution on a case-by-case basis.

Statement from "Vicky":

"I appreciate the Supreme Court's recognition of the pain and loss suffered by victims and the need for mandatory restitution. This upholds both the victim's need for compensation and helping the offender realize they have hurt an actual person. The difficult part of this decision is the immense amount of time and work investment that will be required by the victim to collect restitution, without the guarantee that they will ever collect the full amount to be made whole again. With each case in which the victim seeks restitution from someone who has possessed and/or distributed their images, there is an emotional cost just for being involved in the case. It brings up the painful reality of the victim's situation of never-ending humilation and puts it right in the victim's face once again. This decision places on the victim the huge burden of several years of litigation without any promise of closure. This is a dismal prospect because it leaves victims like Amy and myself with the choice between not pursuing restitution (which would not provide us with the help we desperately need to heal) or continuing to have this painful part of our lives in our face on a regular basis for several more years, if not decades. Without any guidelines as to how the district courts will calculate restitution from each offender, I worry that the emotional toll may not be adequately compensated for in the end. I sincerely hope that Congress will take the time to create some guidelines for restitution for victims of child pornography possession and distribution that will protect the victim and enable them to receive full compensation."

 

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