Child Porn Victims Lose Fight for More Damages

     (CN) – A federal judge in California properly awarded two victims of a child pornographer $20,000 in restitution, the 9th Circuit ruled Friday.
     “Amy” and “Vicky,” as they are named in court documents, are victims of Joseph Cantrelle, who pleaded guilty last year to the distribution of child pornography and is currently serving 14 years in prison.
     The FBI has said that the 61-year-old’s computer turned up “approximately 561 videos and 4,079 still images depicting minors engaged in various types of sexually explicit conduct.”
     Amy and Vicky had filed a writ of mandamus to receive restitution under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, but a federal judge in Sacramento found there was no evidence to support a “causal connection” between Cantrelle’s crimes and the “losses” sustained by the girls.
     A three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit reversed in March, saying that the girls had established the connection. On remand, the District Court awarded Amy $17,307.44 and Vicky $2,881.05 in restitution. The girls took the case back to the 9th Circuit in a petition for a writ of mandamus, challenging the method the lower court had used to calculate their awards. They also again asked the appeals court to strike down the 2011 decision United States v. Kennedy, which established the “causal connection” standard.
     The federal appeals court in San Francisco denied the petition on Friday in an unsigned ruling, and left the long-term question as to the best way to calculate such awards unanswered. Methods vary by circuit, but, in the 9th, “the appropriate method for calculating a restitution award under 18 U.S.C. § 2259 is an open question,” the ruling states.
     In the present case, the District Court had used a method out of the 6th Circuit, “determin[ing] the relevant ‘pool’ of each victim’s provable losses by excluding any losses incurred prior to the offense date, then divided that pool of losses by the number of standing restitution orders.”
     Amy and Vicky argued against this method and asked the court to instead “impose joint and several liability on defendant Joseph Cantrelle for all of their losses.”
     Refusing this call, the panel pointed out that joint and several liability is never expressly authorized in 18 U.S.C. §§ 2259 or 3664(h), the general federal criminal restitution statute.

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