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Update in Paroline v. United States: Supreme Court Nixes Mandatory $3.4 Million Payout to Victim of Abuse

If you face Florida cybercrime or child pornography charges, a recent verdict handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court could have ramifications for your case. Paroline v. United States concerns an anonymous woman (whom the courts are calling “Amy”) who was abused by her uncle as a young child.

Her uncle made sexually explicit videotapes and images of her and then distributed them online. Doyle Paroline, a Texas man, downloaded those images and was later swept up in a dragnet. Amy, meanwhile, sought restitution for the emotional harm done, which was tallied at several million dollars. Her uncle ultimately only paid $6,000, so Amy went through the courts to obtain restitution from other people who victimized her using those images.

So how much money should “Amy” get from Paroline?

According to one reading of law, she should be entitled to the full amount of her damages -- $3.4 million -- if Paroline could pay. Why? After all, hundreds of people viewed the images, so shouldn’t the damages be meted out in a more fair fashion?

The rationale is that victim should not have to go through a laborious court process to get compensation. If a wealthy person, like Paroline, was “first in line,” he should be made to pay her everything. He could then proceed to seek compensation from other people convicted of the offense.

The courts have had a hard time figuring out what should be done.

A federal judge said that Paroline did not have to pay any restitution, because not enough evidence existed linking him with Amy’s suffering. A Federal Appeals Court in New Orleans, however, totally disagreed and said he was responsible for paying the full $3.4 million bill. The Supreme Court then reversed the Appeals Court’s decision and said that Paroline had to pay a reasonable amount that was in line with his role in the suffering.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented, because she thought that Paroline should have paid the full amount. Meanwhile, Justices Thomas, Scalia, and Roberts said that Congress didn’t clarify how judges should calculate damages in cases like this.

In our next post, we are going to look at the implications of what can be done to improve the system, so that victims and defendants get more equitable achievement. Until then, if you have questions about your Florida cybercrime defense, please call Seltzer Mayberg, LLC at 1-888-THE-DEFENSE (888-843-3333) for a confidential and free case consultation.

Categories: Cyber Crimes
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