A St. Charles man was ordered Wednesday to pay restitution to a child pornography victim, videos of whom are among the most downloaded worldwide.
It was part of the sentence for Gary L. Harris, 53, who pleaded guilty in March to aggravated possession of child pornography of a victim under age 13, and to possession of marijuana.
Harris will have to pay $5,000 to the victim, who was featured in several of the videos police found on his laptop computer and a DVD in 2012. Circuit Judge Karen Simpson also sentenced him to sex-offender probation for six years. Gaeke requested six years in prison. Harris could have been sentenced to as many as 14 years in prison.
The victim, who lives on the West Coast, was raped by her father repeatedly between 2000 and 2001, when she was 10 and 11, according to news reports. He videotaped the sessions and put them on the Internet. Her father pleaded guilty to production of child pornography and transporting a minor across state lines for sexual purposes in federal court in 2008, and he is serving a 50-year prison sentence. He also pleaded guilty to state charges of rape of a child.
The victim has spoken publicly about the effect of child pornography on victims, including the helplessness she feels knowing the videos are still being distributed and watched. She has sought restitution in federal and state courts, and her situation was cited in a Supreme Court case about the liability of child-porn viewers to pay restitution.
“Hundreds of people nationwide have been prosecuted for disseminating the images and videos of this victim,” Gaeke said after the sentencing.
Gaeke said the victim has bills for psychological and psychiatric counseling of at least $10,000 a year. He asked for $5,000, since evidence indicated Harris owned the pornography for about six months.
According to St. Charles police detective Andrew Lamela, Harris downloaded files off a peer-to-peer file-sharing site to which he subscribed. Police found 25 videos on the laptop computer and five others on a desktop computer. They also found 300 thumbnail images of child pornography leftover from deleted files, he said.
After Harris pleaded guilty in March, Gaeke asked St. Charles police to submit the videos to a child sexual exploitation unit of the federal National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The center identified at least 11 victims.
Harris’ attorney, Kathleen Colton, argued against restitution, saying he couldn’t have caused the victim harm because her exploitation happened years before he was arrested. There was no evidence he knew the victim or that she was being harmed, she said.
Gaeke argued ordering restitution would “impress upon offenders that child pornography, even simple possession, affects child victims.”
Harris began sex offender counseling in January and has been attending Narcotics Anonymous meetings, according to a court-ordered pre-sentence investigation report. In counseling, he said, “I have learned there are victims. To them I also apologize.”
Simpson said: “The statement is really, it’s very moving and it brings home to myself the seriousness of this offense.”
The judge likened child pornography distribution to a pyramid scheme: “Some real live human beings are raping these children” on the videos, which are then promoted via the Internet and downloaded by voyeurs. She noted that the victim has been stalked and that people still seek her out.
She also said not enough attention is paid to the matter.
“It winds up being a paragraph maybe in the local paper, when really it (the news) ought to be posted online, maybe on YouTube,” Simpson said.