ALBANY, N.Y.—One thing that never stops being fascinating about child porn is who's watching it and collecting it: The former Provost Marshal of the Ft. Drum Army base in New York; an Assistant Vice-President of Blue Cross/Blue Shield North Dakota; a Vice-President of Pfizer Pharmaceuticals from Connecticut; a retired civil engineer in Plum, Penna.; the owner of a construction company in Athens, Tex.—the list is very long.
But what those folks all have in common is that they've all been required by federal judges to pay "restitution" over the past two years to one or more of the children whose pornographic images they were found to have possessed, with Provost Marshal Lt. Col. Christopher Butler only the latest offender to be so tolled.
The restitution concept comes from a 1994 U.S. statute, 18 U.S.C. §2259—just two statutes away from another law that's very familiar to adult industry members: The federal recordkeeping and labeling law, 18 U.S.C. §2257. The statute requires a federal judge, at sentencing, to order any defendant convicted of a child abuse-related crime to pay restitution to the victim of that offense, whether that defendant can afford to do so or not—and whether or not that defendant was involved in the actual abusive actions taken against the child. Another act of Congress, the 2004 Crime Victims Rights Act (18 U.S.C. §3771), further requires that the victim of any crime be given prompt notice of any court proceeding involving the perpetrator of the crime, and also affords that victim the right to be heard at the perpetrator's trial and/or sentencing.
Butler, who was sentenced to just under six years in prison (and 25 years' "post-release supervision") for possessing more than 700 child porn images, will also pay $10,000 to each of two of the victims who could be identified from Butler's stash, with the possibility of more payments to more victims to come.
Of course, that's chickenfeed compared to the possible $3.7 million in "restitution" to two of the victims of Blue Cross VP Robert Scheiring, who was caught with in excess of 600,000 child porn images and 2,400 videos of kids involved in sex acts. (Scheiring is appealing the amount of the judgment.)
Somewhere between them is Pfizer VP Alan Hesketh, who in early 2009 was caught with almost 2,000 child porn images. He received a sentence of just over six years in prison, and must pay $200,000 to the 19-year-old woman whose underage porn image was part of Hesketh's collection. (That judgment is also under appeal.)
Just this past October, engineer Nathaniel Josiah Worden was required to pay 20-year-old child porn victim "Amy" $533,244 for reparations and for the counseling U.S. District Judge Joseph Van Bokkelen expects her to need for the rest of her life—and that's on top of the $143,000 "Amy" has received from other child porn collectors. Of course, just how much "Amy" will receive from Worden is questionable, since his attorney, Michael Bosch, says he's broke—and besides, "Amy" hasn't attended counseling sessions for at least two years.
"I am still discovering all the ways that the abuse and exploitation I suffer has hurt me, has set my life on the wrong course, and destroyed the normal childhood, teenage years and early adulthood that everyone deserves," Amy supposedly wrote in a victim impact statement that was actually ghosted by psychologist Dr. Joyanna Silberg who was hired by Amy's attorney James Marsh to assess the psychological harm allegedly caused to Amy by the possessors of Amy's child porn images and their repeated viewing of them.
"Every day of my life, I live in constant fear that someone will see my pictures, recognize me and that I will be humiliated all over again," Dr. Silberg wrote for the victim.
"These are crime scene photos," charged Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. "This has nothing whatever to do with free speech. It's not pornography at all. This is a problem that has absolutely exploded with the advent of the Internet."
But as attorney and George Washington University professor Jonathan Turley has pointed out with respect to the Hesketh case, the ruling by Judge Warren W. Eginton requiring the $200,000 "restitution" is problematic for several reasons, perhaps most notably, "[I]t stretches personal accountability to a breaking point. There is no question that people who buy or trade such child pornography are contributors or facilitators of these terrible crimes. However, the extension of the definition of victim could lead to liability without limitation. Presumably, anyone watching porn movies with an underaged character or in possession of a magazine with such a picture could be similarly faced with restitution demands. Prosecutors could threaten targets with financial ruin under such theories—forcing guilty pleas to other offenses. Restitution is generally limited to the direct victims of the defendants actions."
Turley compared the situation to that of a pawn shop owner who received good stolen by a burglar being forced to pay the owner of the burgled property for the window the burglar broke to enter, or the physical abuse the burglar may have administered to the property owner.
"[C]ourts have traditionally limited restitution to the victims of the direct crime," Turley concluded in his Feb. 24, 2009, article. "Those who abused this child and photographed it would fit into such a category of offenders owing restitution. Likewise, if this defendant conspired or solicited the specific abuse or photography, he would be legitimately held for restitution," he assessed, adding, "This should make for a very interesting appeal."