From: The Honorable Matt Cartwright
Sent By: stephen.coffey@mail.house.gov
Date: 7/17/2014

Support the Victims of Child Pornography

Cosponsor H.R. 4981, the Bipartisan Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act

                        Recently endorsed by National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Endorsing Organizations:  National Center for Missing and Exploited Children,Building Empowerment by Stopping TraffickingECPAT USANational Crime Victim Law InstituteNational Organization for Victim Assistance

Senate Cosponsors (18): Blumenthal, Blunt, Cornyn, Feinstein, Graham, Grassley, Kirk, Klobuchar, Lee, Markey, McCain, Murray, Portman, Pryor, Roberts, Rubio, Schumer, Toomey

House Cosponsors (83):  Bachus, Blumenauer, Brady (PA), Braley, Brooks (IN), Brown, Chu, Cicilline, Clark, Coffman, Cohen, Cooper, Cole, Cotton, Courtney, Crowley, Cummings, Daines, Rodney Davis, Susan Davis, DeFazio, DeGette, DeLauro, DelBene,  DeSantis, Deutch, Duncan (TN), Enyart, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Fudge, Garcia, Gene Green, Hastings (FL), Hastings (WA), Honda, Israel, Jackson Lee,  Jordan, Kaptur, Robin Kelly, Peter King, Kuster, John Larson, Lowey, Carolyn Maloney, Marino, Matsui, McCarthy (NY), Meadows, Meehan, Meeks, Messer, George Miller, Moran, Mullin, Neal, Nolan, Norton, Pascrell, Payne, Perry, Rangel, Reichert, Ros-Lehtinen, Rothfus, Ruiz, Schwartz, Shea-Porter, Slaughter, Chris Smith, Speier, Stockman, Terry, Tipton, Titus, Van Hollen, Vargas, Vela, Weber, Wilson (FL), Yarmuth

Dear Colleague,

A federal statute[1] requires that, in child sexual exploitation cases, a defendant must pay restitution for “the full amount of the victim’s losses.”  That works for crimes in which a defendant directly causes specific harm to a victim, but child pornography crimes are different.  Each step in the child pornography process – production, distribution, and possession – increases the harm to a victim but makes more difficult identifying those responsible.  Restitution is especially important in cases of child pornography where victims often need years of therapy to put their lives back together.

Meeting that challenge is the purpose of the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014.   “Amy” and “Vicky” are the victims in two of the most widely-distributed child pornography series in the world[2].  In Paroline v. United States, which reviewed Amy’s case, the Supreme Court on April 23 said that the existing restitution statute is not suited for cases like theirs because it requires proving the impossible: how one person’s possession of particular images concretely harmed an individual victim.  That standard puts the burden on victims to forever chase defendants and recover next to nothing.

Originally introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch with six Republican and six Democrat original cosponsors, the Amy and Vicky Act creates an effective, balanced restitution process for victims of child pornography that also responds to the Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline.  It does three things that reflect the nature of these crimes.  First, it considers the total harm to the victim, including from individuals who may not yet have been identified.  Second, it requires real and timely restitution.  Third, it allows defendants who have contributed to the same victim’s harm to spread the restitution cost among themselves.

  • A victim’s losses include medical services, therapy, rehabilitation, transportation, child care, and lost income

  • If a victim was harmed by a single defendant, the defendant must pay full restitution for all her losses
  • If a victim was harmed by multiple individuals, including those not yet identified, a judge can impose restitution on an individual defendant in two ways depending on the circumstances of the case
    • the defendant must pay “the full amount of the victim’s losses” or, if less than the full amount,
    • at least $250,000 for production, $150,000 for distribution, or $25,000 for possession
  • Federal law already provides a mechanism for creating a restitution payment schedule

  • Multiple defendants who have harmed the same victim and have paid at least those minimum amounts may sue each other to spread the restitution cost (a point specifically highlighted by the Supreme Court in Paroline as important).

You can find a section by section explanation of the bill by clicking here.

Those who continue a victim’s abuse should not be able to hide in the crowd; there should be no safety in numbers.  Victims should not be abused again by putting the burden on them to prove the impossible.  Instead, the Amy and Vicky Act creates a practical process, based on the unique kind of harm from child pornography, that both puts the burden on defendants where it belongs and provides actual and timely restitution for victims.

If you are interested in becoming a cosponsor of the Amy and Vicky Act or you have any questions, please contact Stephen Coffey in my office at Stephen.Coffey@mail.house.gov or at 202-225-5546.

Sincerely,

Matt Cartwright                                                                                       Tom Cotton

Member of Congress                                                                              Member of Congress

Suzan DelBene                                                                                       Randy Weber

Member of Congress                                                                              Member of Congress

Judy Chu                                                                                                 Doc Hastings

Member of Congress                                                                              Member of Congress