Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
McEntee: Utahn joins new restitution push for child porn victims

By peg mcentee

| Tribune Columnist

First Published Feb 01 2013 06:04 pm • Last Updated May 21 2013 11:31 pm

Imagine living with the inextinguishable memory of being victimized by horrific child sexual abuse. Now imagine that images of the abuse are circling the world on the Internet, sought out by countless addicts of child pornography.

That’s what Vicky, now grown, has faced since her father repeatedly raped, sodomized and bound her, videotaping it all the while, starting when she was a small child. Her father ultimately was convicted and imprisoned.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

Last month, a Utah man, Michael Loren Dunn, was found guilty in federal court of possession of child pornography, including images of Vicky (a pseudonym to protect her privacy).

In a relatively new tactic in Utah, Vicky is asking the court to order Dunn to pay her restitution for the years of therapy she has needed and lost income from the months and years she was unable to work.

Among those leading that charge is Paul Cassell, a former federal judge and now a professor at the University of Utah law school who is donating his time on Vicky’s case.

I learned about the issue in Emily Bazelon’s story in the Jan. 27 New York Times Magazine. During an investigation of Vicky’s father, who had gone missing, Vicky appeared on television to ask the public for tips. Later, police found online pictures of Vicky and showed them to her and her mother. For Vicky, Bazelon wrote, learning that "so many men had witnessed and taken pleasure from her abuse has been excruciating."

As Cassell put it, "What’s so pernicious about child pornography is [Vicky] discovers it’s ongoing. Now to discover there are thousands of people out there, and any day she’s going to bump into somebody who’s seen her.

"People have stalked her on social media and figured out her real name. She had to take down her MySpace page," he said. "Guys would call up saying, ‘Hey, I saw what you did with your dad. I’m sure you want to do it with me.’ "

Episodes such as that, he added, "really set back all the efforts at therapy."

And of having a working life.

story continues below
story continues below

Vicky, terrified that someone would make the connection between her and the videotape, left jobs and colleges, at times retreating to her mother’s home. She would drop therapy, then return, but her symptoms — anxiety, dissociation, panic attacks, shame — persisted.

Cassell is joined in the legal proceedings by Carol Hepburn, Vicky’s attorney, and James Marsh, a children’s rights lawyer in New York.

Last year, after federal appeals courts produced diverse rulings on whether, and how much, restitution should be paid to victims of online child pornography, the three focused on a case in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans.

Last October, that court ruled in favor of another woman, Amy, who also sought restitution. The court also accepted the theory of joint and several liability, meaning that attorneys can go after any offender, but particularly target the wealthy ones.

Still, Cassell said, the U.S. Department of Justice and defense attorneys oppose his and his colleagues’ position.

"The government says we should be able to collect small amounts, not the large amount," he said. "So we’ve had to wrangle. … It’s been very challenging litigation, but rewarding" to fight for victims.

Some would question whether restitution is fair to an offender’s family, but Cassell said he and his colleagues would use normal criminal-collection procedures.

"We can go after Dunn’s assets, but not after the assets of others," he said. "Of course, that may cause harm to those connected with Dunn. But Dunn should have thought about that before he committed the crime."

Besides, he said, "restitution is one of the most important things we can do for a victim. The principle we’re working on is that a victim who’s harmed from a crime ought to be able to emerge from that event not having any losses at all. The defendant is the one who ought to be made good for what happened.

"The government," Cassell added, "condemns victims to hand-to-hand combat in literally hundreds and hundreds of cases all over the country trying to get restitution."

Vicky’s is a test case in Utah for setting the principles, Cassell said. "We’re going to litigate this to the max."

Next Page >

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.