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United States v. Quignon

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

December 27, 2018




         This matter is before the Court on the Motion Requesting Order of Restitution, ECF No. 32, filed by the Government. The Government requests that the Court order restitution in the amount of $1, 000.00 to the victim of the “Tara” series. Defendant Lawrence R. Quignon filed a brief in response, ECF No. 37. For the reasons stated below, the Government's request will be granted.


         Quignon pled guilty to distribution of child pornography, a violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(2) and (b). Quignon admitted that he used the anonymous chat service Chatstep to upload 17 images of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. One of the images is part of the known series “Tara.” The Government has sought restitution on behalf of the victim in the Tara series in the collective amount of $37, 008.78. The victim has been reimbursed a total of $18, 872.78 from defendants in other cases. ECF No. 32-1, Page ID 108. The victim seeks additional reimbursement for continued counseling sessions and various safety measures. See Victim Impact Statements, ECF No. 32-1, Page ID 106-07. Although the victim is no longer a minor, the victim and her mother assert that they continue to receive threats and unwanted communications.

         The Government represented that, according to a database kept at the Department of Justice's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, the average amount of restitution, nationwide, that has been awarded to the victim of the Tara series between May through October 2018 is roughly $1, 350 dollars. Quignon argues that the Government has failed to prove any connection between his wrongful conduct and specific harm to the victim. Quignon also argues that evidence of past expenses is insufficient to prove an appropriate amount of restitution for continued harm.


         Under 18 U.S.C. § 2259, the Court “shall order restitution for any offense under [Chapter 110 of the United States Code]” and “shall direct the defendant to pay the victim . . . the full amount of the victim's losses.” 18 U.S.C. § 2259. “The issuance of a restitution order under this section is mandatory.” § 2259(b)(4)(A). The “full amount of the victim's losses” includes medical services relating to physical, psychiatric, or psychological care; necessary transportation, temporary housing, and child care expenses; and any other losses suffered by the victim as a proximate result of the offense. See § 2259(b)(3). The Court may apportion liability if it finds that more than one defendant has contributed to the victim's loss. 18 U.S.C. § 3664(e), (h).

         “Restitution is proper under section 2259 only to the extent that the defendant's offense proximately caused the victim's losses.” United States v. Bordman, 895 F.3d 1048, 1056 (8th Cir. 2018) (quoting United States v. Beckmann, 786 F.3d 672, 682 (8th Cir. 2015)). Courts agree that “even mere possessors of child pornography cause proximate harm to victims of child pornography.” Id. (citing Beckmann, 786 F.3d at 682). But “[t]he harder question in these cases is determining the appropriate amount of restitution-i.e., how much of the victim's losses are attributable to the defendant's conduct.” Id. (citation omitted). To determine the proper amount of restitution, “a court must assess as best it can from available evidence the significance of the individual defendant's conduct in light of the broader causal process that produced the victim's losses. This cannot be a precise mathematical inquiry and involves the use of discretion and sound judgment.” Paroline v. United States, 572 U.S. 434, 459 (2014).

         In Paroline, the Supreme Court suggested that a district court start with a determination of the amount of the victim's losses caused by the continuing traffic in the victim's images. Id. at 459-60. Then, the award of restitution is based on factors “that bear on the relative causal significance of the defendant's conduct in producing those losses.” Id. The factors courts may consider include:

• the number of past criminal defendants found to have contributed to the victim's general losses;
• reasonable predictions of the number of future offenders likely to be caught and convicted for crimes contributing to the victim's general losses;
• any available and reasonably reliable estimate of the broader number of offenders involved (most of whom may never be caught or convicted);
• whether the defendant reproduced or distributed images of the victim;
• whether the defendant had any connection to the initial ...

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