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Mother sues 266 people, alleging they traded images of her children

An Anne Arundel County mother has filed a federal lawsuit against hundreds of people she said viewed an online video that allegedly shows her children being sexually assaulted, molested and forcibly raped by their father and another person.

Andrew C. White (left) and Steven J. Kelly represent the unnamed plaintiff in the $32 million suit against hundreds of people who allegedly received pornographic images of her children being sexually abused.

The woman, who is not named in the lawsuit, filed her suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore Tuesday. She is seeking $8 million in compensatory damages and $24 million in punitive damages against 266 defendants.

Some of the defendants have already been convicted of or pleaded guilty to receipt of child pornography involving the children, according to the complaint. Others have been charged with receipt of child pornography and have been notified by the United States Department of Justice.

More than two-thirds of the individual defendants were identified through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children’s Child Victim Identification Program, the suit said.

According to the suit, the children were sexually molested around 2008. The older child was 6 years old when the abuse occurred and is now 9 years old, and the younger child was 4 years old when the abuse occurred and is now 7 years old.

“Photographs and video depictions of the unspeakable abuse suffered by the children were uploaded to the Internet within the state of Maryland and have been exchanged and traded by child predators … as part of a series of sexually graphic images and videos known to child predators and law enforcement as the ‘DKNY’ and/or the ‘YKND’ series,” the complaint says.

She said that the children “live now, and will perpetually live, in fear that any person they encounter in their daily lives may recognize them as the children depicted in the obscene images.” The suit includes claims of invasion of privacy, intentional infliction of emotional distress, civil conspiracy.

The children’s father and the other person pled guilty to various federal charges relating to the production of child pornography and were sentenced to 45 and 36 years in prison respectively, the complaint states.

Steven J. Kelly and Andrew C. White, attorneys at Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin & White LLC in Baltimore, represent the mother.

Kelly said in a telephone interview Wednesday that the lawsuit is predicated upon the federal statute known as Masha’s Law. Passed in 2006, the law allows child pornography victims to file federal civil lawsuits against anyone who makes, distributes or acquires any sexually explicit images of them.

“The little twist on this case is that these pictures involve pre-pubescent pornography,” Kelly said. “The legal significance of that is that it is a defined community.”

He said this is the first case that goes after an entire class of people who are trading in these images.

Yiota Souras, vice president and general counsel at the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, said Wednesday that it might be difficult for the victims to actually collect damages from the defendants.

Kelly, however, said some of the defendants “have money,” and that, at some point, he would like to reach a third-party commercial entity that trades in the pornography.

Adam Rosenberg, executive director of the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, said Wednesday sexually abused children will require mental health counseling and are at greater risk of depression and heart disease.

“The body internalizes these traumatic experiences,” Rosenberg said.

He also said children who have been sexually abused suffer diminished earning capacity, earning on average $5,000 less per year.

“It is impossible to scrub [the images] from the Internet,” Rosenberg said. The children “will have to live with the knowledge, and that results in hard economic damages.”