For immediate release
October 3, 2012
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PROTECT to Holder: Shut Down Campaign Against Child Pornography Victims
Justice Department Should Accept 5th Circuit Appeals Court Ruling
(KNOXVILLE, TN) The U.S. Justice Department should accept this week’s federal appeals court ruling in the case of Amy Unknown and cease and desist its campaign against victims of child sexual exploitation, PROTECT said today.
“Attorney General Holder should shut down this shameful campaign immediately,” said PROTECT’s executive director Grier Weeks. “He should accept this verdict and stop wasting taxpayer money to defend human rights violators.”
The 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled Monday that victims can go after individual perpetrators of child sexual exploitation for full damages. “By possessing, receiving, and distributing child pornography, defendants collectively create the demand that fuels the creation of the abusive images,” the court wrote.
It was a rebuke to the Justice Department, who is fighting the efforts of Amy and other victims to secure restitution under the Crime Victims Rights Act of 2004.
“We gave Attorney General Holder a private, half-hour briefing in 2009,” said Weeks. “We implored him to arrest hundreds of thousands of child pornography traffickers whose locations are known to the Justice Department. Not only did he refuse, he turned around and sent government lawyers to go after the victims.”
Amy was repeatedly raped by an uncle at the age of four. The images of those crimes have shown up in over 3,200 criminal cases since 1998, causing her severe trauma.
Although the law limits Amy to collecting only her proven, documented damages, the Justice Department argues she should have to do that in tiny increments. The Department argues that courts should “divide the pool of Amy’s proven losses by the number of defendants convicted of possessing Amy’s image.” This would require victims to dedicate their lives to going into court to collect ever-diminishing amounts from ever-expanding numbers of perpetrators, effectively making legal action pointless. Amy has already sought restitution in 174 cases, receiving awards as low as $100.
PROTECT began calling to raise the stakes on child exploitation in 2006, with an article by Andrew Vachss in Parade magazine and subsequently through Congressional testimony and the PROTECT Our Children Act of 2008, which was sponsored by then Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX).
PROTECT’s sister organization, the National Association to Protect Children, joined child exploitation survivors with an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2011, opposing the government’s argument. The court declined to hear that case, but Monday’s ruling, which conflicts with other appeals court decisions, could return the case to the Supreme Court once again.
PROTECT is exploring new federal legislation for 2013 that would strengthen crime victims’ right to restitution, expand asset forfeiture and use criminal fines to create victim assistance funds.
In 2011, PROTECT worked with the Virginia Legislature to enact a mandatory restitution law similar to one upheld by the 5th Circuit. Now victims in Virginia can avail themselves to the same rights upheld by the 5th Circuit.
“Mr. Holder should understand that, just as in his personal life, he doesn't have to win every debate,” says Weeks. “He should give this up and move on. It would be shameful and politically costly if the government takes this spectacle to the United States Supreme Court.”
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"Pricing Amy" (case background) ABA Journal, Sept. 1, 2012
5th Circuit Appeal Court Ruling
Justice Department Argument
"Raising the Stakes" An Interview with Andrew Vachss
"Restitution for Child Porn Victims Now Law" (News Virginian)
Legal Blog of James Marsh, victims rights attorney
Copyright © 2012 PROTECT. All rights reserved.
PROTECT | P.O. Box 27599, Knoxville, TN 37927 | www.protect.org
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