Hunter Moore And The Black Magic Outrage

Within the sphere of people who are unquestionably venal for their conduct of deliberately harming women for a profit through revenge porn, Hunter Moore is up there, a disgusting face in the pantheon of scum.  Far more so than the intellectually dishonest who would eviscerate free speech by criminalizing revenge porn, guys like Moore are responsible for driving the need to end the blight.

Sarah Jeong writes that Moore was sentenced for his conduct, for violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, for the intentional harm he caused.

On Wednesday, revenge porn site operator Hunter Moore was sentenced to two and a half years in federal prison. He will also be paying a $2,000 fine, and on top of that, a bizarrely specific $145.70 in restitution.

$145.70: the price of being a revenge porn victim.

The term of imprisonment was one thing; the amount of restitution, on the other hand, bred outrage.

Charlotte Laws, the mother of one of the victims, is an anti-revenge porn activist whose work helped take down Hunter Moore. She told me she was dissatisfied with the sentence, saying, “I think it was like capturing Jack the Ripper and giving him community service.”

The sentence presents a stark contrast to the one imposed on Kevin Bollaert, one of a handful of utterly reprehensible people who join Moore in the pantheon of scum.

Back in April, Kevin Bollaert, another revenge porn site operator, was ordered to pay $15,000 in restitution to the victims. On top of that, he got significantly more prison time than Hunter Moore—Bollaert was sentenced to 18 years in prison.

And that $15,000 in restitution imposed against Bollaert is in addition to the judgment of $385,000 against him obtained by Marc RandazzaMike Masnick takes up Jeong’s cause:

The sickening bit: that “$145.70” in “restitution”? That’s how much Moore paid Evens (also, Evens is jointly liable for that money, meaning that Moore might not even pay it). It’s difficult to understand why the $145.70 makes any sense at all as the “harm” caused to the anonymous woman “L.B.” whose computer got hacked into.

Indeed, that $145.70 is an offensively bizarre, and seemingly inadequate, amount.  But hating the number offers no insight into why it’s the number.

As Sarah Jeong at Vice’s Motherboard notes, the reason that Moore’s sentence seems so light is because of the nature of the plea bargain he agreed to with the government:

The tiny amount of restitution has partly to do with Moore’s plea bargain. He pleaded guilty to counts 2 and 9 of the indictment (which had a total of fifteen counts)—one count under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, and one count of aggravated identity theft. Counts 2 and 9 relate only to one victim, L.B.

So because he’s only guilty on those two counts, there’s just that single victim. Even so, the tiny restitution seems a bit bizarre.

This, unfortunately, explains little, if anything.  That Moore pleaded guilty to only two of nine counts offers no answer as to the amount of restitution, and that those outraged are trying to explain it without a working understanding of the criminal justice system contributes nothing to an understanding of why, and what, went wrong.

What makes this even more peculiar is that Charlotte Laws, the mother of one of Moore’s victims, is a key player in the anti-revenge porn lobby, with unfettered access to the law professors who praise themselves for all they’ve done to end the blight, as well as lawyer-activists who promote themselves on the internet as advocates for the victims of revenge porn.  With all this “firepower” at her fingertips, how could things have gone so horribly, and inexplicably, wrong?

The law provides for mandatory restitution to victims.  Not only does the law define who is a victim, but it goes a step beyond just to cover any base that’s left out.

(2) For the purposes of this section, the term “victim” means a person directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of an offense for which restitution may be ordered . . .

(3) The court shall also order, if agreed to by the parties in a plea agreement, restitution to persons other than the victim of the offense.

On the one hand, the plea to two counts does nothing to limit the court’s sentence from taking into account the harm reflected by the other counts under the doctrine of “related conduct.”  But even more specifically, the mandatory restitution law makes specific provision for restitution to all victims, regardless of whether they are the victim of the particular offense to which the plea was entered.

Back to the restitution order of $145.70.  This ridiculous amount was not the product of some amorphous dark magic in the courtroom, but of a confluence of failure on the part of those involved.  At its top level, this reflects the amount sought by the prosecution. Whether it was an agreed-upon amount in the plea agreement, or whether it was a disputed amount upon which the judge made a finding, is unknown.  Whether there was argument over the proper amount of restitution, and what arguments were made, is unknown.  But that’s how amounts of restitution happen.

Yet, that’s just the superficial layer. Beneath the surface, there is the question of whether the victims were in communication with the prosecution, advocating their cause for both plea and restitution. Charlotte Laws should have been fully aware of what was going to happen at Hunter Moore’s sentencing, but for the ultimate sentence which is always in the hands of the judge. So should all other victims of Moore. If Laws felt personally inadequate to the task, she could have had her legal representative engage in the discussion on her behalf, and if she couldn’t afford one, there are always the passionate advocates like Goldberg who would no doubt speak on her behalf.

Was there engagement with the prosecution, before the plea, before the sentence, to advocate for the amount of restitution necessary to make the victims whole?  Did the prosecutor know and refuse to take their claim into account?  Did the prosecutor enter into a plea agreement that froze out restitution to other victims? Or did they leave this all to some vague forces of “justice” to somehow manage to eke out a satisfactory result?

Or did none of these self-proclaimed advocates have a clue how the process works, how to establish their claim for restitution, of the need to advocate for their claims, of their rights to restitution?

The explanation that Moore pleaded to only two counts fails to explain much of anything. That may be the facile answer to people outside the system, who aren’t aware of how the system works and that it’s not magic.  This seemingly inexplicable amount of restitution falls on the shoulders of the prosecutor, and then slides down the slope to people like Charlotte Laws, and from there to the self-proclaimed saviors of victims, none of whom appear to have performed their role in making the law happen the way it could have, it should have.

The absurdity of an order of mandatory restitution in the amount of $145.70 was not because of black magic, but incompetence and lack of understanding of how the system works, and what the system offers and how to make it happen.  No amount of teary-eyed stories or self-proclaimed saviors can conceal this failure. They had the chance to seek the restitution to which they believe they’re due, but they lacked the knowledge, experience and capacity to make it happen, right down the line.  Don’t blame the evil magic of the law for their failure. The law may be “a ass,” but that doesn’t absolve others from their failure to use the tools the law provides.