Civil Judgment based on Child Pornography could be Discharged since Debtor Created Images for Use as an Expert Witness and Did Not Intend to Harm the Plaintiffs

Civil Judgment based on Child Pornography could be Discharged since Debtor Created Images for Use as an Expert Witness and Did Not Intend to Harm the Plaintiffs

The matter before the Court is the Complaint to Determine the Dischargeability of a Debt, brought by the Plaintiffs/Creditors, Jane Doe and Jane Roe. Plaintiffs obtained a civil judgment against the Debtor for $300,000.00 ($150,000.00 each) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio for violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(f). The charges stemmed from morphing of images of the Plaintiffs into child pornography.

The Debtor filed a Chapter 13 petition and  Plaintiffs filed a complaint to have the judgment debt excepted from discharge under 11 U.S.C. § 523(a)(6) as a debt incurred due to “willful and malicious injury by the debtor . . .”

The District Court, in the underlying civil case, found that the Debtor knowingly “morphed” images of real identifiable children into child pornography, and that the Plaintiffs had suffered injury.  These findings were necessary in order to impose liability under 18 U.S.C. § 2252A(f). Accordingly, this Court found the issue of whether or not the Debtor “morphed” the images of real and identifiable children into child pornography as res judicata for purposes of this adversary proceeding.

Since the issue of intent to injure was not fully and fairly litigated in the prior proceeding and the issue of intent was not necessary to the judgment, the only issue in this trial is intent to injure. Specifically, whether the debt due to the Plaintiffs is for willful and malicious injury by the Debtor.

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