Bill would force child pornographers to pay restitution

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Lawmakers want to hit child pornographers where it hurts the most--their wallets.  New legislation going through the General Assembly tries to deter these criminals and at the same time, help the victims recover.

Virginia is helping to lead the way in this new way of looking at punishment for child pornographers, forcing them to pay restitution to the victims.  The Commonwealth would be only the third state to enact these guidelines, following Florida and Kansas.

19,000 computers in the Commonwealth alone are trafficking images of children being raped and tortured.  It's a startling statistic from the Department of Justice and a trend Del. Bill Janis hopes his proposal will curb.

"When we can get our hands on anyone who has produced this, has possessed this or is distributing it and we can haul them into a Virginia court, we can create additional monetary damages that might be an additional deterrent," he said.

House Bill 1995, which passed its biggest hurdle Wednesday, would force those who produce or possess child porn to pay $1,000 for every count they face.  Louisa Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Rusty McGuire has prosecuted dozens of cases and explained there's usually between five and twenty charges.  At the high end, that would be $20,000 a victim could use for therapy.

"Every time she walks down the street and somebody whistles at her, she has to wonder is this because of how I look today or something they've seen on the Internet, which is going to cause psychological problems that are going to need treatment," he said.

The bill also allows victims to sue their perpetrators, with damages starting at $150,000.

"If you're going to participate in this global marketplace that not only will the Commonwealth take your freedom from you they're also going to take your finances," explained Camille Cooper of the National Association to Protect Children.

This bill now heads to the senate.  Del.  Janis said while they are tweaking some of the details of how the guidelines will work, the response from other lawmakers has been positive.

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