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Child Porn Victims Can Still Recover From Defendants Convicted of Downloading Images

In a 5 to 4 decision yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Paroline v. United States, ruled that defendants convicted of possessing child porn may be held liable to the victims depicted in the images for restitution.

The main issue before the Court was whether a single defendant could be held liable for all of the victim’s damages. Here is where the Court drew the line, with Justice Kennedy writing that a victim should receive, “restitution in an amount that comports with the defendant’s relative role.”

The Paroline case involved a victim known as “Amy,” whose uncle sexually abused her as a child and posted pictures of the abuse on the internet. The defendant, Paroline, pleaded guilty to possessing the victim’s images in Federal Court and “Amy’s” attorneys sought $3.4 million dollars in restitution from the defendant pursuant to the Violence Against Women Act, that provides restitution penalties for child pornography.

The Court rejected the victim’s argument that each defendant should be responsible for all of her damages, instead concluding that the possessor does have to pay, but only for the portion of proximate harm he individually caused.

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