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December 3, 2009

Ninth Circuit clarifies limit on restitution award in illegal prostitution case

An interesting little opinion today from the Ninth Circuit in US v. Kuo, No. 08-10314 (9th Cir. Dec. 3, 3009) (available here), documents a limit (and perhaps an unfortunate one) on a federal restitution sentence. Here is how the opinion starts and a key paragraph:

Defendants Fu Sheng Kuo and Shengji Wang appeal the imposition of restitution following their pleas of guilty to violating 18 U.S.C. § 241, Conspiracy to Violate Civil Rights. Defendants “knowingly and willfully conspired to injure, oppress, threaten, and intimidate [Chinese women] recruited for and engaged in prostitution, in the Territory of American Samoa.”  As we explain below, restitution for “lost income,” 18 U.S.C. § 3663, is not the same as disgorgement of all of Defendants’ ill-gotten gains from the victims’ forced prostitution.  Accordingly, we must vacate the restitution order and remand for further proceedings....

We understand the district court’s desire to make Defendants disgorge everything that they gained by cruelly exploiting these victims.  But restitution for a violation of § 241 is limited by the provisions of § 3663; other means (such as fines) are available to accomplish disgorgement.  The victims also may choose to sue Defendants civilly for damages, including but not limited to damages to help compensate them for their extreme pain and suffering.  With regard to restitution, however, the court and the victims are bound to the government’s choice to pursue a civil rights prosecution rather than a human-trafficking prosecution.

December 3, 2009 at 01:37 PM | Permalink


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