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Circuit Court upholds $500,000 restitution order

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A man who waived his right in plea negotiations to challenge his sentence or an order of restitution may not appeal the imposition of $533,000 in restitution to a victim depicted in child pornography, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held July 14.

In United States of America v. Nathaniel Josiah Worden, No. 10-3567, Nathaniel Worden, who pleaded guilty to one count of advertising child pornography, challenged that he pay restitution of nearly a half million dollars to victim “Amy.” In exchange for dropping three other charges, Worden pleaded guilty to the advertising charge and agreed to a comprehensive waiver of his appellate rights, including appealing a restitution order.  He was sentenced to 35 years in prison.

The government petitioned for the restitution under the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act about five months after Worden pleaded guilty. Worden argued that a psychologist’s testimony regarding Amy’s future treatment was too speculative to support the restitution award and there was no evidence that he had proximately caused Amy’s injury. The court ordered Worden to pay the full amount requested by the government.

The 7th Circuit concluded Worden waived his right to appeal the restitution order. Several times during his plea agreement hearing, he knowingly and voluntarily waived his right to appeal the restitution order. He believes that he should be able to appeal the amount he was ordered to pay. Several other Circuit courts have concluded that when a defendant waives his right to appeal his “sentence,” an appeal of restitution order falls with the scope of the waiver, wrote Judge Joan Humphrey Lefkow of the Northern District of Illinois, sitting by designation. Others have concluded that a defendant didn’t waive his right to appeal the amount by entering into an agreement that waives the right to appeal the “sentence” imposed.

But in this case, Worden waived his right to appeal the amount of restitution as well as the order itself. They also held because they didn’t reach the merits in this appeal, the judges don’t need to address the Circuit split arising from other cases involving whether the Mandatory Restitution for Sexual Exploitation of Children Act requires a showing of proximate causation.

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