Child porn victim makes gut-wrenching case for restitution

Published: Thursday, Sept. 12 2013 7:38 p.m. MDT

Attorneys for a child pornography victim argued in court Thursday why a Park City man who was convicted of viewing her image should pay her more than $500,000 in restitution.

Shutterstock

Enlarge photo»

SALT LAKE CITY — Child pornography victim "Vicky" has nightmares about images of her playing endlessly on a television she cannot turn off.

Pictures and videos of her being bound, raped and sodomized at age 10 are widely distributed on the Internet.

"I live every day with the horrible knowledge that many people somewhere are watching the most terrifying moments of my life and taking grotesque pleasure in them," Vicky, now 21, wrote in a victim impact statement filed in federal court.

She suffered panic attacks, insomnia and paranoia, forcing her to drop out of college in 2009. A psychologist who treated her describes the continued downloading of her images as “a form of psychological acid drip” on her well-being.

"I feel totally out of control. They are trading around my trauma like treats at a party, and it feels like I am being raped all over again by every one of them," Vicky wrote. "So many nights I have cried myself to sleep thinking of a stranger somewhere staring at their computer with images of a naked me on the screen. I have nightmares about it often."

One of those men is Michael Loren Dunn, a decorated former Utah National Guard member and middle school teacher.

A jury convicted him this year of three counts possessing and distributing child pornography, and Vicky wants him to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for her ongoing psychological trauma and future lost earnings. Dunn didn't make the video, but he watched it and shared it on the Internet.

Vicky's attorney, University of Utah law professor Paul Cassell, and Jeff Zeeman, a lawyer with the U.S. Department of Justice Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, made that argument Thursday at Dunn's sentencing hearing. They say she is victimized every time someone downloads the pictures that Dunn shared.

"He made her image available to hundreds of thousands of people on the Internet," Zeeman said.

After sentencing Dunn to 12 years in prison and 25 years probation, U.S. District Judge Robert Shelby ordered him to pay Vicky $583,955 in restitution.

To date, she has been identified as a victim in 477 child pornography cases across the country. She was initially awarded $1.3 million. Payments in the other cases have reduced the amount to what Shelby awarded her Thursday.

Dunn, 43, of Park City, is on the hook for the remainder unless more payments are made in other cases or other people are convicted of downloading her image, Cassell said.

"There are a lot of small amounts that can be collected, but every now and then we uncover a defendant with significant assets. When that happens, that full amount must be paid," he said. "We would like to see one wealthy defendant to cover the whole cost for Vicky."

Kim Trupiano, Dunn's attorney, argued that her client doesn't have the means to pay and shouldn't be responsible for the full amount. Dunn has accepted that Vicky is a victim, but the question is how to quantify restitution according to his actions, she said.

Shelby ordered Dunn to pay $15 a month while in prison and $200 a month after his release.

How to calculate damages in child pornography cases is a complex issue that the U.S. Supreme Court will attempt to sort out next year. Cassell will argue before the high court on Vicky's behalf.

"Does Vicky get the full $1.3 million from people like Dunn? Does she get zero? The defendant's position today is, 'Well, we can't figure who gets what, so she can't get anything.' The government's position is, 'Let's divide it up by the number of cases,'" Cassell said.

Dunn claimed at trial that he accidentally downloaded child pornography at times when searching for adult pornography, but immediately deleted those files. But forensic evidence proved otherwise.

A systems administrator in the Army who did a tour of duty in Iraq, Dunn placed his child pornography images into encrypted files that only he could access. Investigators found images on three different computers or hard drives, including files recovered from the deleted space on his computer. Evidence also showed that the overwhelming majority of files he searched for contained terms indicative of child pornography.

Dunn told the judge he has struggled with pornography since puberty. He said his heart ached when a proxy read part of Vicky's statement aloud in court Thursday. He said he knows his actions hurt innocent children and that he increased demand for Vicky's images by sharing them on the Internet.

"I'm ashamed, deeply ashamed, and I'm sorry for everyone and anyone I've hurt," Dunn said. "There's nobody to blame but me."

Email: romboy@deseretnews.com

Twitter: dennisromboy

Get The Deseret News Everywhere

Subscribe

Mobile

RSS