When a Broward lawyer was convicted of possessing more than 1,000 child pornography photos and videos, which he viewed at home and at his law firm, he was sentenced to 17 ½ years in federal prison.
But earlier this month, in a growing trend, a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale also ordered David Rothenberg to pay a total of $142,600 in restitution to nine of the children who appeared in the disturbing digital images. Much of the material involved torture and extreme violence.
Hepburn and James Marsh, a New York attorney who also represents child pornography victims, said the actual collection rate for the victims they represent is about 10 percent of what they are owed. That’s partly because many of the offenders are serving lengthy prison terms and have little or no assets and it can be complicated to try to collect the debts.
“A court could order $10 billion in restitution from a homeless defendant and the victim would never see a dime,” Marsh said. Records show that less than one-third of federal child pornography convicts were ordered to pay restitution, he said.
Victims’ advocates support proposed legislation, which has stalled, that would establish a minimum amount of damages for different levels of child pornography offenses, make enforcement more uniform, and simplify the whole process for victims.