Attorney General Fox Urges Swift Passage of Child Pornography Victim Bill
Today, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox and a bipartisan group of 54 state and territorial attorneys general called on congressional leaders to pass legislation supporting victims of child pornography.
The bipartisan bill, the Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act of 2017, would make it easier for victims of child pornography to obtain restitution. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate in 2015 but failed to pass the House of Representatives. The letter is directed to House and Judiciary Committee leaders.
“The Internet and other new technologies make child pornography more easily attainable, leading to increased victimization and trafficking to meet the demand,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “While nothing can permanently erase these images from the Internet or the harm done to victims, Congress can act to make it easier for victims to receive meaningful restitution from perpetrators who produce, share, and view these images.”
The attorneys general’s letter is in direct response to a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Paroline v. United States, which held that while victims of child pornography are entitled to restitution, any individual defendant they sue is only liable for the harm caused by that one individual’s possession of the images.
“Unfortunately, the Supreme Court’s decision puts an enormous burden on victims of child pornography,” the letter reads. “In order to receive restitution, a victim must pursue every case in which a defendant was found to possess images of the victim. As the Supreme Court recognized, digital images of each child victim are trafficked worldwide, and there may be thousands of defendants found to possess each victim’s images. As a result, victims are only able to receive a small amount of restitution from each defendant and must pursue thousands of cases in order to receive full restitution. Preventing victims from collecting full restitution protects defendants, who are shielded from having to pay meaningful costs to those they have harmed.”
The Amy, Vicky, and Andy Child Pornography Victim Assistance Act will improve the law by:
• Clarifying congressional intent that victims be fully compensated for all the harms resulting from every perpetrator who contributed to their trauma;
• Establishing a more meaningful definition of “full amount of a victim’s losses;”
• Clarifying restitution owed to victims;
• Establishing a process for victims to receive compensation from the Child Pornography Victims Reserve within the federal Crime Victims Fund and requiring judicial appointment of a guardian ad litem for victims of child pornography production;
• Allowing victims and their attorneys access to images in which they are depicted which is crucial for victim identification, expert testimony, forensic review, treatment, and the prevention and prosecution of future crimes; and
• Requiring the U.S. Department of Justice to report on implementation within two years.
Attorney General Bob Ferguson of Washington and Attorney General Sean Reyes of Utah led the letter. All state attorneys general signed the letter, along with attorneys general from: the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.