Victims of child porn seeking restitution

The Daily Progress

A victim from rural Pennsylvania who goes by the pseudonym "Amy," for example, has received $231,102.28 from nine defendants so far, said her attorney, James M. Marsh. The money is paying for therapy for Amy, now 20, who lives with her parents and is on public assistance.

The attorney said his client is hoping to buy a house with some of the money, which would be a step forward for her. Seeking restitution has helped Amy become stronger, Marsh said.

"She really feels empowered by what is happening and that she is no longer a victim," Marsh said. "She is someone who has really taken control of her life."

Amy, whose uncle abused her on camera between ages 4 and 9, is depicted in the widely distributed "Misty series." She is represented by New York-based defense lawyer Marsh, who receives e-mail notifications when his client's images are involved in a criminal case. Marsh said he and Amy initially focused on filing civil lawsuits, but one criminal case led them into a different direction. Seeking money for his client will help her cover therapy costs and pay for her living expenses because he says she is too distressed to work.

Marsh said Amy first opted to seek restitution against Alan Hesketh, a British citizen and former vice president of a pharmaceutical company in New York.

"The basic reason we chose restitution is because Hesketh was a foreign national," Marsh said. "We had information that most of his assets were overseas. We knew a civil case would take two to three years, so by the time the court would levy any sort of judgment on him, his assets would be out of our reach."

Marsh said he is seeking about $3.3 million in total for his client under the Mandatory Restitution for Sex crimes section of the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. The attorney is asking for the money under the concept of "joint and several liability," which means each person who has been ordered restitution is liable for up to the total amount.

"Once we reach the amount we've been requesting, we will no longer be pursuing restitution and we'd no longer be able to pursue restitution," Marsh said.

Marsh said he has filed 400 restitution requests in the last year and is monitoring about 1,000 cases.

"We are carefully picking and choosing the kinds of cases that we're seriously pursuing," Marsh said.

Marsh said he has discovered that federal judges rarely handle crimes involving individual victims of violent sex crimes and most haven't seen the evidence - the images themselves - in child pornography cases. The attorney has experts available to testify and a restitution request packet that he sends to assistant U.S. attorneys that explains the request and the law.

"The packet we send tries to do both of those things - educate the judges about restitution and what it means to receive restitution. It's a fairly significant effort," Marsh said.

Marsh said both Wisconsin and Arizona have provided notice to his client about her images being involved in criminal cases there. While the lawyer said he is following cases in both states, none of the cases has concluded and Marsh still is trying to figure out the dynamics of the law.

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Filed Under Child Pornography News Restitution 

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