Restitution in Federal Child Porn Cases

On January 5th a story was reported in the Start Tribune, a Minneapolis-St Paul paper, that Judge Patrick Schiltz from the US District Court in St. Paul issued an order demanding to know why restitution was no requested by the US attorney’s office in a federal child porn case.

“Amy” was the victim featured in some of the films possessed by Brandon Anthony Buchanan.  She was raped and had pictures of the crime taken and posted on the internet to be come some of the most widely circulated series of child porn images in the US.  Whenever defendants are identified to have possessed her films, she seeks significant amounts of money, often in the millions,  in restitution to pay for counseling and other expenses resulting from the crime. 

In this case, despite a request for restitution appearing in the pre-sentence report, the US attorney’s office remained silent on the issue of restitution.  Judge Schiltz referred to 18 USC 2259 which is the statute that directs district courts to order restitution for the “full amount of the victim’s losses.” Judge Schiltz expressed that the “the court will no longer accepted silence” in his order filed on Monday, January 4th, and demanded a memorandum from the US Attorney’s office by January 29 regarding their decision.

This is a very interesting issue.  The language of the statue is very broad and can probably be interpreted to suggest that there is indeed a mandatory restitution for the victims of child pornography.  Often, the restitution amount sought out is in the millions.  Therefore, if Judge Schiltz view becomes the prevailing view, in addition to the extremely harsh guidelines associated with child porn, the restitution would be a big time additional jam faced by defendants in child porn cases.

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