Courtroom to courtroom she walked, a young woman clutching a paper that held her message of anger, hurt and sorrow.
Without a tear or the hint of an emotional breakdown, she clearly and forcefully spoke her written words to five convicted child pornographers, men who listened with downcast eyes or vacant stares.
“They are being entertained by my pain and my shame,” she told federal judges Monday in three different Fresno courtrooms. “It feels like I am being raped by each and every one of them.”
Each year, thousands of people — almost always men — are convicted on child pornography charges. Rarely, however, do authorities know the real people who are featured in the photographs and videos that, thanks to the Internet, are traded by pedophiles around the world.
This woman is different. Investigators were able to identify her.
And now — in what appears to be an emerging legal trend at the federal level — she is seeking restitution from the men who, when arrested, had videos featuring her.
The woman Monday addressed five of the six men she is seeking restitution from. A decision on restitution was rendered in only one case.
Among those she faced was Raymond Ferenci, 52, the longtime director of Tulare Western High School’s marching band. Ferenci was sentenced Monday to 6 1/2 years in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii.
Not present was Terry Zane, 58, a former Fresno Unified School District music teacher, although Zane’s attorney was present. In March, Zane was given the same sentence as Ferenci. Both men — along with two other men — will return to federal court next month for a hearing on the woman’s restitution claim.
Prosecutor David Gappa said the woman is one of two victims who have filed restitution claims in U.S. District Court in Fresno. He is not sure why the trend is emerging now.
“I think it’s just taken awhile for them to learn about the process and realize the possibility of filing a claim,” Gappa said.
He said the restitution sought is for costs associated with past, current and future counseling.
In an unrelated case, a Connecticut federal judge this year ordered a man convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography to pay about $200,000 in restitution to a woman who was photographed being sexually abused as a child.
Now 19, the Washington state resident who spoke Monday in Fresno’s federal courthouse was 10 and 11 when her father fondled her and later had oral and anal sex with her for his own gratification. Her name was not revealed in court.
He recorded the incidents, and then sent out the videos over the Internet, where they spread far and wide among traders in child pornography. It wasn’t until she was 17 that she found out her father had gone online and traded videos of her.
“They don’t know me, but they’ve seen every part of my body,” the woman said in court. “They are trading my trauma around like treats at a party.”
The woman’s mother also testified, saying “the sadness this brings me is unending.”
Her former husband began abusing their daughter in 2000, but it wasn’t until several years later that she told her mother. The TV show “America’s Most Wanted” later ran two shows about the case.
The father, however, fled the United States in 2006. He was later arrested in Hong Kong and eventually sentenced to 50 years in federal prison.
His daughter’s first stop Monday was in U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill’s courtroom, where she read a statement at 22-year-old Fresno resident Ryan Christopher Lynn’s sentencing hearing.
O’Neill sentenced Lynn — who had been found guilty in an earlier jury trial — to 171/2 years in prison for trafficking in child pornography. O’Neill said Lynn showed “staggering immaturity.”
He set a hearing for next month on the woman’s restitution claim.
The judge then turned his attention to the woman, telling her she should not let herself be “dragged down by indecent people. … You need to move past that speed bump that seems like a brick wall … because you did nothing wrong.”
Already, she had told O’Neill that she lives in a constant state of paranoia, wondering whether men she sees in the grocery store have seen the video of her.
She also said she feels like she is being stalked because men have tried to track her down through friends’ MySpace pages, and a video of her appearance on “America’s Most Wanted” — in which she was much older — was featured in a compilation video traded by child pornographers. Lynn possessed that video as well, authorities said.
After addressing the multiple defendants in Ishii’s courtroom, the woman ended her day inWanger’s courtroom, where 40-year-old Robert Thompson of Exeter was sentenced to 10 years and 1 month in federal prison.
Wanger, however, denied the $150,000 restitution request because he said Thompson had no assets and no prospect of ever being able to pay the money.
After the woman addressed the court, Wanger turned to Thompson: “In every case,” the judge said, “these are real human beings.”