Feeds

Child porn victims seek multimillion-dollar payouts

One victim. One photo. $3.68 million

Using blade systems to cut costs and sharpen efficiencies

In December 2008, Virginia-based deputy sheriff Arthur Weston Staples III received a visit at home from police investigating claims he had traded child pornography images online. The former Vietnam vet, who had no previous offenses, was eventually sentenced to more than 17 years in prison after investigators found 400 to 600 illegal images, according to court documents.

The 210-month sentence can be considered modest compared with the life sentences dished out in many child pornography convictions. But in a twist, Staples was also ordered to pay $3.68m for his possession of a single picture taken more than 10 years earlier of a girl being severely sexually abused when she was eight years old. The restitution was awarded to “Amy,” the pseudonym of the victim, who is now 21 and has filed almost identical claims in some 600 other federal prosecutions over the past 18 months.

Over the same period, a separate survivor of sex abuse images identified only as “Vicky” has submitted some 80 claims under the same law, known as the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act.

Courts have responded to the flood of restitution requests with widely varying rulings. In sharp contrast to the outcome in Staples's case, the federal judge presiding over a separate child pornography trial in the Eastern District of Texas refused to award any restitution at all, even though two of the illegal images defendant Doyle Randall Paroline admitted to possessing were identified as depicting Amy. That ruling is now on appeal before the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, where oral arguments are scheduled for this Thursday.

The new legal maneuver comes as the internet has fundamentally changed the way child abuse images are trafficked. It also comes as federal prosecutions for child pornography have skyrocketed over the past 15 years. In 1995, there were 50, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Last year, there were almost 2,500.

The photographs and videos of Amy – which were shot and originally published by the girl's uncle – have taken on a life of their own over the past decade, becoming a staple known as “the Misty series” in child predator circles. They depict some of the most depraved images imaginable, including fellatio, cunnilingus, and anal and vaginal penetration.

There are at least 730 federal prosecutions that involve images from the series, according to court documents. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has said the pictures have been actively traded since 1998 in more than 3,227 cases.

New York attorney James Marsh, who represents Amy, hired a psychologist and economist to evaluate her and calculate the damage that has stemmed from her abuse and the continuing distribution of the images documenting it. Accounting for lost wages, counseling and lawyer fees, they settled on a price of $3.37m.

Boost IT visibility and business value

Next page: Continuing trauma

More from The Register

next story
Secure microkernel that uses maths to be 'bug free' goes open source
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
14 antivirus apps found to have security problems
Vendors just don't care, says researcher, after finding basic boo-boos in security software
Only '3% of web servers in top corps' fully fixed after Heartbleed snafu
Just slapping a patched OpenSSL on a machine ain't going to cut it, we're told
How long is too long to wait for a security fix?
Synology finally patches OpenSSL bugs in Trevor's NAS
Israel's Iron Dome missile tech stolen by Chinese hackers
Corporate raiders Comment Crew fingered for attacks
Roll out the welcome mat to hackers and crackers
Security chap pens guide to bug bounty programs that won't fail like Yahoo!'s
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
Researcher sat on critical IE bugs for THREE YEARS
VUPEN waited for Pwn2Own cash while IE's sandbox leaked
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.