Judge: Why no restitution in child porn cases?

by Elizabeth Dunbar, Minnesota Public Radio
January 5, 2010

St. Paul, Minn. — A federal judge in Minnesota wants prosecutors to explain why they haven't requested that a man convicted of possessing child pornography pay restitution to one of his victims who had requested it.


U.S. District Judge Patrick Schiltz on Monday also ordered the U.S. Attorney's Office to indicate in a memorandum whether the victim, who had requested nearly $3.5 million in restitution, had received any restitution.


The order, for which the judge gave prosecutors a Jan. 29 deadline, cited federal statute saying district courts are required to order restitution in the full amount of a victim's losses in cases that include possession of child pornography.


Schiltz's order came in the case against Brandon Anthony Buchanan, who pleaded guilty in May to possessing child pornography. Buchanan's attorney and the government had filed court papers saying neither side was seeking restitution.


The fact the law requires restitution and that one of Buchanan's victims sought restitution "has put the court in a difficult position," Schiltz wrote. Buchanan's case isn't the only one involving a child pornography offense that included victims who sought restitution, he said.


"Given the clear congressional mandate that those convicted of child-pornography offenses pay restitution to their victims, the court will no longer accept silence from the government when an identified victim of a child-pornography offense seeks restitution," Schiltz wrote.


In the future, prosecutors will have to give some explanation if they decline to seek restitution, Schiltz said.


Jeanne Cooney, community relations director for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Minneapolis, said she couldn't comment on how prosecutors will respond to Schiltz's order. But she said U.S. Attorneys across the country are looking at how best to handle restitution in child pornography cases, where it can be a challenge to identify victims and determine a dollar amount for damages.


"It's an emerging issue nationally," Cooney said.


At least one victims' group has applauded Schiltz's order. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) said it hopes the judge's order will lead to victims being compensated more often.


"The courts should, whenever possible, make child pornographers pay for the suffering they inflict on innocent kids and for the years of therapy these victims will need," SNAP Outreach Director Barbara Dorris said in a statement.


(To read original article, visit this MPR News link)

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