Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden has joined 34 of his colleagues in arguing to the U.S. Supreme Court that federal law allows victims of child pornography to recover full financial restitution from predators who produce, posses, or trade sexually explicit images of children.
“Child abuse, especially abuse related to child pornography, can have significant and long-lasting effects,” said Biden, who as attorney general created the state’s Child Predator Task Force to track down and arrest those seeking to prey on kids, and successfully pushed for increased penalties for the possession of child pornography. “Victims deserve full restitution to help them recover. It is the right thing to do and we believe it is the law.”
The attorneys general made their argument in a “friend of the Court” brief filed in the U.S. Supreme Court case Paroline v. Amy Unknown, urging the nation’s highest court to uphold a 2012 federal appellate court ruling that ordered a convicted child pornographer to pay restitution to a victim depicted in images he possessed.
In the case before the court, the victim was raped as a young girl by her uncle who took photos of the abuse and traded the pornographic images online with others, including Doyle Randall Paroline. Paroline pled guilty in 2009 in federal court to one count of possession of material involving the sexual exploitation of children and was sentenced to two years in prison. Among the images of child pornography found on Paroline’s computers were those depicting Amy’s sexual abuse, and Amy’s counsel sought financial restitution from the defendant. That request was denied by federal District Court but, on appeal, the U.S Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that Amy was entitled to full financial restitution from Paroline under the federal Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act of 1994. The Supreme Court is currently considering Paroline’s appeal of this ruling.
Images depicting child sexual abuse are often traded through online networks for months or years after they are produced, contributing to significant and ongoing harm to victims and extended treatment. Restitution can help recover an array of these costs, including medical care, psychological care, other therapy and rehabilitation, housing, lost income, transportation and child care. The courts have rarely awarded victims of child pornography full restitution, often finding that the victims cannot prove exactly what losses resulted from an individual pornographer’s actions. Biden and his fellow attorneys general believe that the federal law has clear language mandating full restitution by predators who victimize and re-victimize children.
The states signing the brief, in addition to Delaware, are: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, , Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington State, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.