JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.—Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is supporting legislation that would allow victims of child sexual abuse to sue anyone convicted of producing, promoting or possessing images created as a result of that abuse for at least $150,000 in damages.
According to the Kansas City Star, “The legislation, which could be sent to a state Senate committee this week, is intended raise the financial stakes for the purveyors of child pornography while giving private law firms an incentive to help crack down on the industry.”
The bill is modeled after a similar 2008 Florida law promoted by that state’s attorney general as the first of its kind. A 2006 federal law raised from $50,000 to $150,000 the minimum amount of financial damages that victims of child sexual abuse can receive in federal court from people who subsequently promote or possess their images.
“Possession and promotion of child pornography is often considered a victimless crime because it’s an image being distributed,” said Joan Gummels, the legislative director for Attorney General Chris Koster. “But every image in child pornography portrays a victim. The bill is an attempt to give that victim a voice against the perpetrator of the crime.”
A 2007 Missouri law allows victims of child pornography to sue perpetrators for physical or psychological injuries, but sets no minimum guarantee for those damages if the lawsuit is successful. According to Republican state senator Matt Bartle, who sponsored the bill, establishing a floor of $150,000 in damages should give private attorneys a greater incentive to take such cases.
Sen. Kurt Schaefer, a Columbia Republican who also is a lawyer, called the proposal “a very intriguing concept” that could deter some people from downloading or possessing child pornography, reported the Star.