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United States v. Page

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

November 14, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff,
v.
Thomas Robert Page, Defendant.

          RESTITUTION ORDER

          DONOVAN W. FRANK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         The defendant pleaded guilty to one count of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c), and was sentenced to 120 months' imprisonment. The government has now moved for restitution. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the government's request in part: The Court orders the defendant to pay restitution in the amount of $27, 011.74.

         BACKGROUND

         From 1990 until 2012, Defendant Page, a United States citizen, taught math and science in various African countries, including Cameroon from 2007 until 2011. During his time in Cameroon, according to his plea agreement, Page engaged in sexual abuse of three minors, including S.A. On October 21, 2015, the government filed an indictment charging Page with three counts of engaging in illicit sexual conduct in foreign places, 18 U.S.C. § 2423(c). On July 25, 2016, Page pleaded guilty to one count. As part of the plea agreement, Page admitted to engaging in illicit sexual conduct with the three minors in Cameroon from 2009 until 2011. On December 21, 2016, the Court sentenced Page to 120 months' imprisonment.

         The government now seeks $39, 911.74 in restitution for S.A.'s injuries, which includes $19, 900 for his family's lost property; $15, 062 for medical treatment and therapy; and $3, 823.48 for travel expenses. The government's claim for property damage requires a brief explanation regarding the laws and culture in Cameroon. In Cameroon, homosexuality is illegal. Gay men, in particular, are ostracized and often have a difficult time finding work. Cameroonians hold this same prejudice against boys who are sexually abused and against their families. Here, when individuals in S.A.'s hometown, Yaoundé, Cameroon, learned of Page's actions, S.A. suffered physical and verbal abuse from neighbors. Likewise, when S.A. and his family's landlord learned of Page's action, the landlord forced S.A.'s family from their home. As a result, S.A.'s family had to abandon all of their property and had to sell a piece of land to pay for an attorney to fight the eviction.

         On July 27, 2017, the Court held an evidentiary hearing regarding restitution and ordered briefing from the parties. In his papers, Page contests only the property damages and future medical expenses. For the reasons discussed below, the Court grants the government's request in part.

         DISCUSSION

         Both parties agree that the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (“MVRA”), 18 U.S.C. § 3663A, applies here and requires that the Court to order restitution. The district court “has wide discretion in ordering restitution” under the MVRA. United States v. DeRosier, 501 F.3d 888, 897 (8th Cir. 2007). The government bears the burden of proving damages by a preponderance of the evidence. 18 U.S.C. § 3664(e); United States v. Young, 272 F.3d 1052, 1056 (8th Cir. 2001).

         I. Property Damages

         Page argues that the Court should not award the requested property damages because: (1) the damages are not awardable under the MVRA; or (2) the government has failed to meet its burden of proving the damages.

         The Court concludes that Page should pay for the property damages resulting from his conduct. The MVRA requires the Court to order restitution to the victim of the offense. 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(1). The MVRA defines “victim” more broadly than the person who was the target of the crime. See United States v. Chalupnik, 514 F.3d 748, 753 (8th Cir. 2008). Instead, a victim is any person who is “directly and proximately harmed as a result of the commission of an offense.” 18 U.S.C. § 3663A(a)(2).[1] The purpose of imposing mandatory restitution “is to make victims of crime whole, to fully compensate these victims for their losses and to restore these victims to their original state of well-being.” United States v. Balentine, 569 F.3d 801, 806 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting United States v. Gordon, 393 F.3d 1044, 1053 (9th Cir. 2004)). Nonetheless, the offense must have “directly and proximately caused” the harm. United States v. Spencer, 700 F.3d 317, 323 (8th Cir. 2012). In other words, the defendant must have been the but-for cause of the harm, and the harm must have been reasonably foreseeable. See id.

         Here, Page argues that he was not the cause of the property damages-it was the landlord. “The main inquiry for causation in restitution cases [is] whether there was an intervening cause, and, if so, whether this intervening cause was directly related to the offense conduct.” United States v. Farish, 535 F.3d 815, 828 (8th Cir. 2008) (Shepherd, C.J., dissenting) (alteration in the original) (quoting United States v. Hackett, 311 F.3d 989, 992 (9th Cir. 2002)); see also United States v. Arnold, Civ. No. 16-6152, 2017 WL 2838287, at *2 (10th Cir. July 3, 2017) (“[I]ntervening causes break the chain of proximate cause unless they are directly related to the offensive conduct.”).

         In this case, the family's eviction was directly related to Page's actions: Without the stigma of being sexually abused, S.A.'s family would not have been evicted and would not have lost their property as a result. Similarly, the eviction was reasonably foreseeable in Cameroon. Thus, the landlord's actions did not break the causal chain between Page's crime ...


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