WASHINGTON (CN) - The Supreme Court will weigh in on the burden of proof in restitution cases for child pornography victims, the justices said Thursday.
In the underlying case, Doyle Paroline pleaded guilty to possessing 150 to 300 images of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct.
At least two images were of girl described in the court record as "Amy," whose uncle sexually abused her, filmed his acts and shared them with others.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has reported finding at least 35,000 images of Amy's abuse among the evidence in over 3,200 child pornography cases since 1998. It describes the content of these images as "extremely graphic."
Prosecutors joined Amy, who is now a young adult, in seeking restitution from Paroline under Section 2259 of the Crime Victims' Rights Act. A psychiatrist who treats Amy itemized her future damages for specific categories of treatment and estimated total damages nearing $3.4 million.
The government reports that restitution has been ordered for Amy in at least 174 child pornography cases across the United States in amounts ranging from $100 to $3,543,471.
A federal judge in Texas denied Amy restitution, however, after finding that the government failed to prove that Paroline's possession of images depicting Amy's sexual abuse "proximately caused the injuries" for which Amy sought restitution.
The en banc 5th Circuit reversed
in November 2012, holding that "that § 2259 only imposes a proximate result requirement in § 2259(b)(3)(F); it does not require the government to show proximate cause to trigger a defendant's restitution obligations for the categories of losses in § 2259(b)(3)(A)-(E)."
"Instead, with respect to those categories, the plain language of the statute dictates that a district court must award restitution for the full amount of those losses," the decision stated.
In granting Paroline's petition for certiorari Thursday, the Supreme Court agreed to answer "what, if any, causal relationship or nexus between the defendant's conduct and the victim's harm or damages must the government or the victim establish in order to recover restitution under 18 U.S.C. §2259."
Paroline can proceed in forma pauperis