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Nation

Supreme Court to consider rape victim restitution

WASHINGTON — A woman whose childhood rapes by her uncle were captured on camera and widely traded on the Internet wants the Supreme Court to make it easier for victims of child pornography to collect money from people who view the brutal images.

The case being argued at the Supreme Court on Wednesday involves a Texas man who pleaded guilty to having images of children engaged in sex acts on his computer.

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Doyle Randall Paroline is appealing an order holding him responsible for the full amount of losses, nearly $3.4 million, suffered by the woman known as Amy. Of the several hundred incriminating images on Paroline’s computer, two were of Amy.

Advocates for child pornography victims say that holding defendants liable for the entire amount of losses better reflects the ongoing harm that victims suffer each time someone views the images online. The threat of a large financial judgment, coupled with a prison term, also might deter some people from looking at the images in the first place, the advocates say.

‘‘The threat that a person in the child pornography market may well bear the entire cost of the harm done to the victim, even if they are a ‘minor player,’ is likely to be a large deterrent, especially when the harm done typically runs into the millions for a victim’s lifetime of care,’’ said Marci Hamilton, a law professor at Yeshiva University. Hamilton wrote a brief in the case on behalf of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children.

The money is intended to cover the cost of her psychological care, lost income, and attorneys’ fees.

Thirty-four states, dozens of victims’ rights and child advocacy groups, local prosecutors, and members of Congress are urging the court to uphold the ruling against Paroline by the New Orleans-based Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

No one has intervened on Paroline’s behalf. But his lawyer, Stanley Schneider of Houston, said in court papers there is no link between the restitution ordered by the appeals court and Paroline’s conduct.

‘‘An award of $3.4 million against an individual for possessing two images of child pornography is punitive and grossly disproportionate,’’ Schneider said.

The $3.4 million estimate on the damages to the victim was calculated by a psychologist working for James Marsh, an attorney for Amy.

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