Ten victims of former Subway pitchman Jared Fogle have received a total of $1 million in restitution since he agreed to plead guilty to child pornography and sex-crime charges, and his four other victims could receive their checks by the time he is sentenced next month — a move prosecutors said is rare.
The $100,000 checks were hand-delivered to each of the 10 victims or their parents over the last several weeks, with each signing a form saying they had received the money and that it is intended to benefit that particular victim, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven DeBrota told The Associated Press on Thursday.
DeBrota said he’s handled only one other case in which restitution was paid to victims before sentencing in nearly a quarter-century of prosecuting child porn cases.
By the time a federal judge sentences Fogle on Nov. 19 to a minimum of five years in prison, DeBrota said prosecutors expect to have either presented $100,000 checks to Fogle’s four other victims or have plans in place to disburse those funds to them.
That money will pay for mental health counseling, medical care and other needs the 14 victims might have now or in the future to help them recover from the trauma. Three adults and seven minors had received their checks as of Thursday. DeBrota said that money will help them “go on with their lives and put them where they should have been had none of this happened.”
Fogle agreed on Aug. 19 to plead guilty to one count each of travelling to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a minor and distribution and receipt of child pornography. Prosecutors have agreed not to seek a sentence of more than 12½ years in prison and Fogle agreed not to ask for less than five years.
Carol Hepburn, a Seattle attorney who has helped several child porn victims pursue restitution, said the vast majority of restitution orders in those cases are never fully paid. She said she hopes the disgraced spokesman’s wealth and quick restitution to his victims will have no impact on the length of his sentence.
“I would hope that justice is equal for those who have money as well as those who don’t,” Hepburn said.
Fogle became a Subway spokesman more than 15 years ago after shedding more than 200 pounds as a college student, in part by eating the chain’s sandwiches. Subway ended its relationship with Fogle after authorities raided his suburban Indianapolis home in July.
Court documents detailing the charges against Fogle say that he had sex at New York City hotels with two girls under age 18 — one of whom was 16 at the time — and paid them for that sex.
Both of those victims are now adults over 18, as are two of the 12 youths prosecutors said were victimized by Fogle’s failure to alert authorities that an associate of his was allegedly producing child pornography of those minors using hidden cameras.
Prosecutors allege Russell Taylor, the former director of a foundation Fogle created to raise awareness and money to fight childhood obesity, secretly filmed those minors as they were nude, changing clothes, or engaged in other activities.
DeBrota said Fogle — a 38-year-old father of two — received photos and videos from Taylor of several of those 12 youths, although not all of them. He said Fogle nonetheless played a role in victimizing all of them because he knew they were minors — some as young as 13 or 14 — but failed to alert authorities who could have prevented Taylor from victimizing some of them.
Hepburn said that for most crime victims, time puts a growing distance from the crime itself and its victims, allowing them to recover. But child porn victims, some of whom are forced into sex, face ongoing trauma for years because that material continues to circulate on the Internet, keeping them in fear that others, possibly friends or co-workers, might discover those online.
“Imagine your most humiliating and shameful and terrifying experience and having not only pictures but videos of that up on the Internet? It’s a very chilling prospect,” she said.
By the time prosecutors signed their plea deal with Fogle, he had transferred the agreed-on $1.4 million in restitution to the law firm representing him, which in turn placed it in a trust account that federal prosecutors are tapping to pay his victims, DeBrota said.
Fogle attorney Jeremy Margolis said in an August statement after Fogle signed his plea deal that “Jared fully recognizes that such monetary contribution will not undo the harm he has caused” but hopes it can help “these individuals as they try to move forward with their lives.”
Fogle’s attorneys said Thursday they had no comment on the distribution of that money.
SOURCE: The Associated Press, Rick Callahan