Senator Hatch Introduces S. 2301

From the Congressional Record

Mr. HATCH. Mr. President, today I will introduce legislation that will help victims of one of the most vicious crimes and one of the most evil crimes in our society: child pornography.

When Congress enacted the Violence Against Women Act more than 20 years ago—and I had a lot to do with that, and then-Senator Biden deserves an awful lot of the credit for that—the law required that the defendant in a child sexual exploitation case must pay restitution “for the full amount of the victim’s losses.” Those losses can include lost income as well as expenses for medical services, therapy, rehabilitation, transportation, and childcare.

The restitution statute works in a straightforward way for crimes that involve individual defendants who cause specific harm to particular victims. But child pornography is different. Victims not only suffer from the initial abuse, but they continue to suffer as images of that abuse are created, distributed, and possessed. As the Supreme Court recently put it, “Every viewing of child pornography is a repetition of the victim’s abuse.”

In the Internet age, a child pornography victim’s abuse never ends, but identifying everyone who contributes to that ongoing abuse can be difficult, if not impossible. A predator who commits and records the abuse might be readily identified. Those who distribute those images, however, are harder to find, and many who obtain and possess them might never be identified at all. They may get lost in the crowd. They may seek safety in shadows. But the harm they cause to victims is no less devastating.

Our challenge is to craft a restitution statute suited for this unique kind of crime. We are meeting that challenge today by introducing the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act. Amy and Vicky are victims in two of the most widely distributed child pornography series in the world. They know how difficult it is to seek restitution for ongoing harm caused by unknown people.

The Supreme Court reviewed Amy’s case and issued a decision on April 23, titled Paroline v. United States. The Court said the existing restitution statute is not suited for her kind of case because it requires proving how one defendant’s possession of particular images concretely harmed an individual victim. That is simply impossible to prove and puts the burden on victims forever to chase defendants only to recover next to nothing.

Several of my colleagues, both Republican and Democratic, joined me on a legal brief in that case. We hoped that the Supreme Court would construe the existing statute in a way that was workable to protect child pornography victims. The Court chose not to do that, and it is up to Congress to craft a statute that works. I believe we are up to the task, and the bill I am introducing today is the way to do it.

The Amy and Vicky act creates an effective, balanced restitution process for victims of child pornography that responds to the Supreme Court’s decision in Paroline v. United States. It does three things. First, it considers a victim’s total losses, including from individuals who may not have yet been identified. This step reflects the unique nature of child pornography and its ongoing impact on its victims.

Secondly, the bill requires real and timely restitution and gives judges options for making that happen. Third, it allows defendants who have contributed to the same victim’s losses to spread the cost of restitution among themselves. If a victim was harmed by a single defendant, the defendant must pay full restitution for all of the victim’s losses, but if a victim was harmed by multiple individuals, a judge has options for imposing restitution on a defendant, depending on the circumstances of the case. The defendant can be required to pay the full amount of the victim’s losses or the defendant can pay less than the full amount but at least a statutory minimum for crimes, such as possession, distribution or production of the child pornography.

In its decision in the Paroline case, the Supreme Court discussed whether a defendant should pay full restitution for harms that he did not cause entirely by himself. At the same time, the Court recognized that the harm from child pornography flows from the trade or the continuing traffic in the images. It would be perverse to say that as more individuals contribute to a victim’s harm and loss by obtaining images of her abuse, the less responsible each of them is so that the victim ends up with nothing. The Amy and Vicky act addresses these issues.

A defendant may sue others who have harmed the same victim in order to spread the costs of restitution but must do so in a timely fashion and only after the victim has received real and timely payment. As my colleagues may know, Federal law already provides for criminal defendants who must pay restitution to do so on a payment schedule suitable for their individual circumstances.

I wish to thank three groups of people who have been critical in bringing us to this point only 2 weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision. First and foremost, I wish to recognize and thank both Amy and Vicky, the brave women for whom this bill is named who represent so many child pornography victims. Amy and Vicky both endorse this legislation.

I ask unanimous consent that a letter from each of them be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Amy’s Letter Supporting the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act of 2014

Vicky’s Letter Supporting the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Restitution Improvement Act

Mr. HATCH. Second, I wish to thank Amy and Vicky’s legal team who were instrumental in developing this legislation. They include Professor Paul Cassell at the University of Utah School of Law, one of the leading authorities on criminal law in this country, and attorneys James Marsh of New York and Carol Hepburn in Seattle. Professor Cassell argued the Paroline case before the Supreme Court, and it is the experience of these tireless advocates that informed how to respond to that decision.

Third, I wish to thank the Senators on both sides of the aisle who join me in introducing this bill. In particular, I wish to recognize the senior Senator from New York Mr. Schumer who also signed on to the legal brief I filed in the Paroline case. We serve together on the Judiciary Committee, and he has long been a champion for crime victims.

I ask unanimous consent that an editorial from today’s Washington Post be printed in the Record.

There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in the Record, as follows:

Congress Needs To Act To Allow Victims of Child Sex Abuse To Recover Restitution

Mr. HATCH. It says that the Amy and Vicky Child Pornography Victim Restitution Improvement Act is “a step in the right direction.”

I urge all of my colleagues to join us in enacting this legislation. It creates a practical process and recognizes the unique kind of harm caused by child pornography and requires restitution in a manner that will actually help victims.

In her letter, Amy writes that the legislation we are introducing today “can finally make restitution happen for all victims of this horrible crime.”

Let’s get it done.

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