Nesset sued by child pornography survivors

Eight plaintiffs filed a lawsuit against former Allegheny College Professor of English Kirk Nesset on Dec. 19, 2016. Although Nesset did not produce child pornography, the plaintiffs in the case are some of those who were in the files that Nesset was found guilty of sharing, receiving and possessing. Nesset was reported in an affidavit in support of the criminal complaint to have had 500,000 video and image files of child pornography on a shared drive.

Nesset will have three weeks to respond once he is served the suit in Lompoc, California, where he is currently incarcerated for his 76-month sentence.

Five of the plaintiffs are still minors, and have a total of three “next friend” representatives who will appear in court for them, as minors cannot appear in court. There are a total of eight women and girls involved in the suit.

They develop a real rational paranoia about being identified by those who download and consume these images

— Carol Hepburn

All of the plaintiffs and survivors involved in the case are filed under pseudonyms, and are jointly represented by Carol Hepburn, of Seattle, Washington, and Katie Shipp, of New York City.

Shipp said she is unsure if Nesset has been served because she and Hepburn have not received confirmation.

Hepburn said the jury will decide how much Nesset would be obliged to pay if the suit against him is successful, but there is a “statutory floor of damages,” or a minimum amount required by the federal government, of $150,000 for each plaintiff in cases such as these.

Two of the plaintiffs in the current case against Nesset are entitled to restitution Judge David Cercone ordered Nesset to pay. According to an article published by the Erie Times-News on Dec. 25, 2016, the plaintiff called “Vicky” is entitled to $32,500 in restitution, and the plaintiff called “Sarah” is entitled to $26,500 in restitution.

The suit has been filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania in Erie, according to Shipp.

Shipp said an intent to inflict emotional pain and an invasion of privacy were also included in the suit.

Hepburn said there is intense anxiety that follows around survivors of child pornography and having people identify them from these videos or pictures.

“Some of these girls look a lot like they did as kids and that’s how Vicky was eventually found, is because the pictures of her as a child look like she did now,” Hepburn said.

Hepburn said fear comes from the possibility of potential employers searching survivors’ names and finding the things they went through as children, as well as the idea they could be identified by those who consume the pornography.

“They develop a real rational paranoia about being identified by those who download and consume these images. … It’s the anonymity of this crime is one of the most devastating things about it,” Hepburn said.