West Virginia Joins 33 States, Territories in Supreme Court Brief Seeking Better Restitution for Children, Adults Who Have Been Sexually Exploited
CHARLESTON — Attorney General Patrick Morrisey today announced that West Virginia has joined with 33 states and territories in an amicus, or friend of the court, brief in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking better restitution for children who are sexually exploited.
“Children in our state and the rest of the nation should always be protected, and when acts of evil are perpetrated upon them, the court system must be able require such perpetrators to pay restitution to the victims of their crime,” Morrisey said. “We owe it to the children of West Virginia, and our country as a whole, to make criminals pay if they abuse and/or sexually exploit our youth. This is a no-brainer, and it’s time for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on this matter.”
Morrisey and a bipartisan group of attorneys general, led by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson, filed the amicus brief with the U.S. Supreme Court to give full effect to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, which is already on the books to protect victims and ensure they are able to fully recover the costs and economic losses caused by child pornography.
The brief argues that the law passed by Congress mandates that district courts order people convicted of child exploitation crimes to pay restitution to the victim to cover any costs related to medical or psychological services; physical or occupational therapy or rehabilitation; lost income; transportation, housing or child care costs; attorneys’ fees; and any other losses suffered by the victim as a result of the offense.
The Amicus Curiae brief stems from a case coming out of the Fifth Circuit, wherein the Court of Appeals addressed this issue after two district courts reached differing conclusions about whether a crime victim, known only as Amy, was able to be compensated for sexual abuse she suffered as a child. The abuse was captured on film by the perpetrator and disseminated on the Internet, resulting in at least 35,000 images of Amy’s abuse being found in evidence in over 3,200 child pornography cases since 1998. The case was appealed, and an appellate court sided with the defendants who argued that the principles of tort liability limited the award of restitution to losses caused by a defendant’s action and that the Crime Victims’ Rights Act could subject the defendants to excessive punishment under the Eighth Amendment, among other things.
In their brief, the states argue the language in the Crime Victims’ Rights Act is clear, and that the purpose of the Act is to ensure that innocent victims of child pornography receive the full restitution they deserve.
“The crime of child pornography does not stop at state lines, or even national boundaries. It is unfortunate in this day and age that images and videos of people abusing children can literally go global with the click of a mouse, and the fact that these images never go away once on the Internet adds to the disturbing nature of the crime, and makes the trauma for the victim all the more devastating,” Morrisey said. “Since victims of this terrible crime may not know exactly how their losses are the proximate result of any individual defendant’s crime, it is imperative that the law is correctly interpreted to ensure these victims receive the restitution they deserve as a result of this dreadful crime.”
The brief was signed by attorneys general representing Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming, and the Territory of the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The parties to the case will present oral arguments before the Supreme Court in January.