WASHINGTON • The Supreme Court said Thursday it will take up a case about when victims of child pornography can recover money from people convicted of viewing their abuse.
The justices agreed to review a question that has divided lower courts: Must there be a link between the crime of viewing child pornography and the victims’ injuries before victims are entitled to restitution?
A woman identified as Amy is seeking financial payments from Texas resident Doyle Randall Paroline, who pleaded guilty to possessing between 150 and 300 images of child pornography on his computer. Amy was among the girls depicted.
Amy is seeking more than $3.3 million from Paroline to cover the cost of her lost income, attorneys’ fees and psychological care.
Last year, the full 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans said in a 10-5 decision that victims do not have to show a link between the crime and their injuries.
Amy, now her early 20s and living in Pennsylvania, was a child when her uncle sexually abused her and widely circulated images of the abuse, according to court records. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children said it has found at least 35,000 images of Amy’s abuse in more than 3,200 child pornography cases since 1998.
In at least 174 cases, Amy has been awarded restitution in amounts ranging from $100 to more than $3.5 million. She has collected more than $1.5 million, one of her attorneys has said.
In another case involving Amy and a second woman, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco threw out a restitution order because it found there was not a sufficient link between a man convicted of possessing child pornography and the women.
That is why Amy’s lawyers also urged the Supreme Court to hear Paroline’s appeal, in an effort to resolve the split among federal judges.
The case, Paroline v. U.S., 12-8561, will be argued in the fall or winter.