A cover story article in the Sunday, January 29, 2013 edition of New York Times Magazine featured legal work by Professor Paul Cassell on behalf of child pornography victims referred to pseudonymously as “Amy” and “Vicky.” The article describes Cassell’s pro bono work in pursuing restitution for these victims in federal appeals courts across the country through the Utah Appellate Clinic. “Simply put, an innocent victim should not suffer financial losses from a crime – the defendant should make good on those losses,” Cassell said.
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The article describes Amy’s and Vicky’s efforts to obtain significant restitution for lost income and psychological counseling in hundreds of cases. Sexually explicit pictures taken of Amy and Vicky when they were sexually assaulted as young girls are among the most widely disseminated child pornography series in the world. Amy and Vicky are traumatized by the continued viewing of these images by thousands of persons scattered around the world.
Cassell has argued appeals on Amy and Vicky’s behalf in a number of circuit courts. Most notably, in October Cassell won a 10-5 decision in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit on behalf of Amy, which held that Amy could recover all of her losses from a single defendant, rather than having to apportion her claims across hundreds of defendants. That decision rejected the contrary view of a number of other appellate courts, which severely limiting the restitution that child pornography victims could receive by requiring the victims to trace their losses to the actions of a single defendant.
Because of the conflicting decisions among the courts of appeals, Cassell has filed a petition asking for review of the issue by the United States Supreme Court. Students from the University of Utah have been working with Cassell through the Utah Appellate Clinic to provide representation to Amy and Vicky. Cassell is an expert in crime victims’ rights, a class that he teaches regularly at the College of Law.