BRATTLEBORO, VT — A former Dummerston man who is serving time in federal prison for the possession of child sexual abuse images was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution to two of his four victims.
Late last year, Robert Page, then 25, was sentenced to nine years in federal prison followed by 20 years of supervised release. He also received a five-to-15-year sentence in state court for pleading guilty to lewd and lascivious conduct with a child. The two sentences are running concurrently.
Page initially was arrested on federal charges. An investigation into the exchange of images online led agents to seize a laptop from his Dummerston home in April 2014. Page reportedly told one investigator, "I tried to stop. I knew it was stupid." A month prior to agreeing to a federal plea agreement, Page was arraigned on state charges after Brattleboro police alleged he had shown a video of a sexual act to a young child and told her "that's what (Page) wanted her to do."
The concurrent sentences mean that Page will have served the state minimum while he is serving his nine-year federal sentence. Once Page's time behind bars is over, he will be released into the community for supervision by both the federal and state governments.
"Though nothing can ever give back the innocence that this child had taken away from her because of the offense, the sentence that's been agreed to is serious and makes it clear that this kind of conduct is completely unacceptable," a Windham County judge said at the time of his local sentencing.
Prior to his Nov. 24, 2014, federal sentencing, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children identified several of the children depicted in the images possessed by Page. "Four of those children ... submitted restitution claims to the Court ..."
At his sentencing hearing on May 11 of this year, the court deferred its ruling on restitution, "requesting that the government submit additional evidence demonstrating that the restitution claimants were, in fact, the children portrayed in the images possessed by Page."
Five days later, the court received an affidavit from John Shehan, Vice President of the Exploited Children Division at NCMEC, in which he explained that NCMEC identifies victims by running illicit images "through NCMEC's Child Recognition and Identification System for computer analysis of whether an image is that of an identified child."
On Sept. 14, the court held a hearing to address the issue of identification, during which time case agents positively identified three of the victims. However, agents were unable to identify the fourth victim. According to court documents, the government withdrew a request for restitution for another of the four victims.
In a response to a demand for restitution, Page contended the restitution hearing was held outside the 90-day period set forth in federal statutes and that the government had not met its burden of proving that the three named victims are the individuals pictured in the images taken from Page's computer. However, noted the court, the 90-day limit was waived because the court left open the questions of both the victims' identities and the amount due, not the fact that he owed restitution.
"Page next argues that restitution is inappropriate because the government has not met its burden of establishing the identities of the victims," wrote the court. "Although Page raises a reasonable question regarding a possible change in the victims' appearances over time, ultimately, the government is not required to prove the victims' identities with absolute certainty."
However, noted the court, agent corroboration was sufficient to establish the identities of two of Page's victims.
Page also contended that a district court must determine the total amount of losses caused solely by the continued trafficking in the victim images and must determine the portion of those losses that is attributable to the particular defendant.
"Here, because the government did not separate the losses caused by the initial abuse from those caused by the dissemination of the images, and because part of the loss information predates his arrest, Page argues that the government has failed to properly demonstrate his share of the losses."
Court precedent notes that "it is neither necessary nor appropriate to prescribe a precise algorithm for determining the proper restitution amount at this point in the law's development (and) defendants should be made liable for the consequences and gravity of their own conduct ..."
Even though Page did not produce the images and videos, noted the court, he found, downloaded and preserved them, therefore, restitution was appropriate.