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Doe v. Hesketh

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

January 9, 2015

JANE DOE, f/k/a MASHA ALLEN
v.
ALAN HESKETH, et al

For JANE DOE, THE VICTIM IN THE " DISNEY WORLD GIRL" OR " INTERNET GIRL" CHILD PORNOGRAPHY SERIES, formerly known as MASHA ALLEN, Plaintiff: ANGELA R. FOX, J. DARREN SUMMERVILLE, S. LEIGHTON MOORE, LEAD ATTORNEYS, SUMMERVILLE MOORE PC, ATLANTA, GA; MICHAEL A. FERRARA, JR., LEAD ATTORNEY, THE FERRARA LAW FIRM LLC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

DOUGLAS MICHAEL STUM, Defendant, Pro se, YAZOO CITY, MS.

RICHARD SCHEIRING, Defendant, Pro se, FORT DIX, NJ.

JOSEPH MARCUS, Defendant, Pro se, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

For JOSEPH MARCUS, Defendant: SAMUEL BRAVERMAN, LEAD ATTORNEY, FASULO BRAVERMAN & DIMAGGIO LLP, NEW YORK, NY.

For STEPHEN JABBOUR, Defendant: CHRISTOPHER M. CHOATE, JOHN T. FLOYD, III, PRO HAC VICE, THE JOHN T FLOYD LAW FIRM, HOUSTON, TX; DANIEL STRICK, LUCAS & CAVALIER LLC, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

ALBERT NOAH ABRAMS, Defendant, Pro se, LOMPOC, CA.

Page 441

MEMORANDUM

Dalzell, J.

We here consider defendant Matthew Alan Mancuso's motion to dismiss plaintiff Jane Doe's complaint because, he contends, the restitution he paid to Doe in accordance with his criminal sentence bars

Page 442

a second recovery for Doe in a civil suit under another statute. Unlike actions in which child-porn victims have successfully sought restitution from so-called non-contact tortfeasors who possessed but did not create the illicit images, the plaintiff here seeks restitution from the originator of those images at whose hands she suffered horrific abuse. But this case is unusual because plaintiff has received compensation for her injuries under a criminal statutory scheme intended for that very purpose and now seeks to recover from the selfsame defendant under a civil statute.

For the reasons set forth below, we will grant defendant's motion and dismiss Doe's complaint against this defendant. Defendant Mancuso also seeks relief from a default judgment in response to the Clerk of Court's entry of default for failure to answer or otherwise defend against the plaintiff's complaint, and we will grant that motion as well.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

A. The Parties

Plaintiff Jane Doe seeks statutory redress under 18 U.S.C. § 2255 for her victimization in the child-porn trade when she was a minor. From the age of five Doe was filmed being repeatedly raped and sexually abused by defendant Mancuso, her then-adoptive father, who subsequently distributed those images over the Internet. First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ) at 2. Most of these acts took place in Mancuso's home in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, but others were filmed during their annual trips to Disney World -- including a widely distributed series through which Doe became known as " Disney World Girl." Id. at ¶ 12. Mancuso distributed some two hundred images of Doe in secret online chatrooms in exchange for pictures and videos of other children being sexually abused. Id. at ¶ 13.

On September 25, 2003, Mancuso pled guilty to a single count of violating 18 U.S.C. § 2251(a), which imposes federal penalties for the sexual exploitation of children.[1] Id. at ¶ 27; Sent. Tr. 2/5/2004 at 3, 17. On January 7, 2004, Judge Terrence F. McVerry of the Western District of Pennsylvania sentenced Mancuso to a term of 188 months' imprisonment to be followed by three years' supervised release. MTD at 3. Additionally, according to the terms of his plea agreement as set forth in correspondence between United States Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan and Mancuso's attorney, Mancuso also " acknowledge[d] his responsibility" for possessing the graphic pictures of Doe in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2252(a)(4)(B) and " stipulate[d] that the conduct charged in that count may be considered by. . . the District Court in imposing sentence." Resp. in Opp., Ex. A. More to the point of our inquiry here, Mancuso also agreed to " pay mandatory restitution under . . . 18 U.S.C. § § 3663, 3663A and 3664, to [Doe and]. . . . establish, and fully fund, a trust fund for the benefit of [Doe] in this case in the amount

Page 443

of $200,000 . . . . [and] immediately notify the court and the United States Attorney of any improvement in his economic circumstances that might increase his ability to pay restitution and that occurs from the date of this agreement until the completion of his sentence, including any term of supervised release." Id.

The trust was funded before Mancuso's February 5, 2004 sentencing hearing. Sent. Tr. 2/5/2004 at 19.

B. Procedural History

Doe filed this lawsuit on August 23, 2013 under 18 U.S.C. § 2255, a statute known as " Masha's Law" and named after this very plaintiff. FAC at 2. The statute provides in relevant part:

Any person who, while a minor, was a victim of a violation of [a predicate offense] and who suffers personal injury as a result of such violation, regardless of whether the injury occurred while such person was a minor, may sue in any appropriate United States District Court and shall recover the actual damages such person sustains and the cost of the suit, including a reasonable attorney's fee. Any person as described in the preceding sentence shall be deemed to have sustained damages of no less than $150,000 in value.

18 U.S.C. § 2255(a). Any plaintiff who establishes a claim under Masha's Law may recover a minimum of $150,000 in damages " [a]s a punitive deterrent to such crimes[] and in recognition of both the magnitude of the damages resulting to the victim and the difficulty of precisely calculating the amount of such damages." FAC at 5.

Doe originally sought to sue a class of defendants defined by their possession of her illicit image. The United States Department of Justice (" DOJ" ) identified each of these defendants as having " received, possessed, and/or distributed one or more of the illicit images" Mancuso created of Doe and each defendant was convicted of a predicate offense to 18 U.S.C. § 2255. Id. at ¶ 15. Under the DOJ's Victim Notification System, Doe learned the names of each defendant " who illegally possessed and/or distributed" one or more of the images of her that Mancuso created of her. Id. at ¶ 16. To date, Doe has received over 2,000 such notifications. Id. Doe sought " at least" the $150,000 in statutory minimum damages from each member of the putative class. Id.

Doe alleged that as part of the conduct of his offense, Mancuso communicated with other possessors and distributors of child pornography through the Internet, where he used fictitious names to " advertise, distribute, and receive illegal images, including images of" Doe. Id. at ¶ 28. She alleged that Mancuso and others " conspired with each other, and with members of the class, to share and distribute these and other illegal child-abuse images, largely by means of the so-called 'darknet,' a collection of secure websites, online chatrooms, bulletin-board sites, and peer-to-peer file-sharing computer networks that communicate via the Internet but are specifically designed to conceal the participants' personal identifying information." Id. at 4. She further alleged that, because the images are illegal, Mancuso and the other onetime defendants " operated under an agreement to protect each other's anonymity [by] communicating with each other remotely under fictitious usernames." Id.

Because these images continue to circulate and as a result Doe suffers grave deprivations of her privacy as a result, she changed her name and took steps to shield her address and personal information before filing this lawsuit. In January of 2014 we granted her unopposed motion to proceed under a pseudonym.

Page 444

On February 4, 2014, Doe filed her first amended complaint against thirteen named defendants whom she sued individually and as representatives of a defendant Rule 23(b)(3) class under 18 U.S.C. § 2255(a).[2] On April 25, 2014, we granted motions to dismiss that three defendants filed over whom we concluded we did not have personal jurisdiction, Doe v. Hesketh, 15 F.Supp.3d 586 (E.D. Pa. 2014). On April 30, 2014, we ordered the remaining parties to show cause why we should not proceed in this matter only with defendants from Pennsylvania, the forum state. On September 15, 2014, we granted motions to dismiss filed by the remaining non-forum state defendants and, as to Mancuso, who had as yet not responded, we held that we would dismiss him if Doe failed to request a default judgment. On September 22, 2014, the same day that Mancuso's attorney filed a pro hac vice motion to enter his first appearance on Mancuso's behalf, Doe filed an application for entry of default against Mancuso. The next day the Clerk of Court entered default against Mancuso for failure to plead or otherwise defend.

The following day Mancuso filed a motion for relief from default judgment and a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.

II. Legal Standard

A. Motion to Dismiss

A defendant moving to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) bears the burden of proving that a plaintiff has failed to state a claim for relief, see Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6); see also, e.g., Hedges v. United States, 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005). A Rule 12(b)(6) motion tests the sufficiency of the allegations contained in the complaint and " [t]he question, then, is whether the facts alleged in the complaint, even if true, fail to support the claim." Kost v. Kozakiewicz, 1 F.3d 176, 183 (3d Cir. 1993) (internal citation and quotation marks omitted). As the Supreme Court held in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007), and Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009), in order to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion " a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face'," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678 (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 570). A claim is plausible " when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged," Iqbal, 556 U.S. at 678.

Our Court of Appeals obliges district courts post-Twombly and Iqbal considering a motion to dismiss under Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) to engage in a two-part analysis:

First, the factual and legal elements of a claim should be separated. The district court must accept all of the complaint's well-pleaded facts as true, but may disregard any legal conclusions. Second, a district court must then determine whether the facts alleged in the complaint are ...

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