As of last week, the woman known as “Amy” in every federal district court across the country had received almost 1,000 notices that she had been identified as the victim of a crime.
Now, at age 20, she has filed requests in nearly 400 criminal cases asking that she receive restitution from any defendant convicted of viewing those pictures.
The idea of restitution is to make crime victims whole. But in Amy’s cases, the question is whether the act of simply “possessing,” or looking, at the illegal, pornographic images in which she appeared is directly responsible for the harm she has suffered and will continue to suffer in the future.
Mr. Marsh — and most federal prosecutors –agree that it is.
“It’s about good law in the area,” Mr. Marsh said. “We’re taking a cautious approach.”
Mr. Marsh added, by filing for restitution in these cases, his client is beginning to feel empowered.
“Through the restitution, she feels she’s going from a victim to someone who’s taking control of her life.”
Still, she doesn’t make much in the way of long-term plans.
“Most of her life is spent coping day to day,” Mr. Marsh said.
Among those who have been made to pay are a former law enforcement officer and a man who worked in a lumber yard, Mr. Marsh said.
Under the requests for restitution, once Amy receives the entire $3.2 million she is asking for, she would no longer file any new claims. For his part, Mr. Marsh is only being paid an average of about $3,500 per claim filed.
It’s not a windfall, Mr. Marsh said. For Amy, who has no health insurance and is living on public assistance, restitution will be simply a means of compensating her for her inability to work at a full-time, professional job because of the harm done to her, he said.
“You have millionaires going to prison, and taxpayers funding their treatment. And then you have the victims with zero,” Mr. Marsh said. “The social costs here are huge on both sides of the equation, and this is really just a way of equalizing the treatment of victims in the criminal justice system.”