A federal judge in Connecticut has ordered a British man convicted of possessing child pornography to pay about $200,000 in restitution to a woman photographed as a child while being sexually abused.
Senior U.S. District Judge Warren W. Eginton said his ruling Monday was the first criminal case in which someone convicted of possessing illegal images — but not creating them — is required to pay restitution.
"We're dealing with a frontier here," Eginton said, adding that judges have discretion with criminal restitution orders.
The case involves Alan Hesketh who was sentenced in October to 78 months in prison for possessing and distributing nearly 2,000 photographs of child pornography. The resident of Stonington, Conn., was a vice president of Pfizer.
'A feeling of revulsion'Pictures of the victim as a child being subjected to sexual abuse turned up in Hesketh's collection, according to prosecutors.
"There is a feeling of revulsion about this type of conduct," Eginton said, noting that Hesketh and his family were humiliated and his career was ruined.
Hesketh's attorney, Jonathan Einhorn, said he would appeal the order, calling it unreasonable and predicting it would probably lead to similar claims by child pornography victims. He said his client had no contact with the woman and defendants should only pay restitution to victims whose injuries they directly caused.
Einhorn also said the woman had not proven she was one of those whose image turned up on Hesketh's computer, and those who actually participated in creating pornography in other cases were ordered to pay less restitution than his client.
But James Marsh, the woman's attorney, said there is no distinction between those who produce the pornography and what Hesketh did.
"The victim is a victim of sexual exploitation caused by this defendant," Marsh said.
'A terrific precedent'
Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said he hopes the ruling leads to more restitution orders and that they serve as deterrents to child pornography.
"We think this is a terrific precedent," Allen said. "The photos stay out there forever. Every time they are downloaded, every time they are distributed, the victim in that image is revictimized."
Authorities said that from June 2006 to May 2007, Hesketh used the Internet to exchange hundreds of images of child pornography and to engage in online "chats" about the sexual molestation of children. Prosecutors said many of the images showed minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct with adults and with other minors.
Hesketh was arrested in March 2008 and was fired from his job in New London as a Pfizer vice president and global patent director.
Prosecutors said they submitted images in the case to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which has a database to help authorities identify victims.
Prosecutors then notified the woman, now 19. She said she was 8 or 9 when she was subjected to sexual abuse by a relative for the purpose of producing child pornography that was requested by a pedophile in another state, according to court papers filed by prosecutors.
Marsh said he did not believe the ruling would necessarily lead to a flood of new claims. Victims are often reluctant to come forward or do not have the ability or awareness to pursue cases, he said.
Asked how his client is doing, he said, "She has a long road ahead of her." .