A child pornography victim from Pennsylvania is using a law that carries her name to seek at least $150,000 each from her father, 13 other jailed men and anyone else who viewed explicit images of her.
"Masha's Law'' is named for Masha Allen, a Russian orphan adopted at age 5 by divorced Pittsburgh-area millionaire Matthew Mancuso. He's in prison for making and posting about 200 sexually explicit images of her that authorities believe have been viewed millions of times online.
The FBI sought the identity of the child known as the "Internet Girl'' or "Disney World Girl'' and located Masha in 2003, when she was 10. She is now 20 and has changed her name to regain some measure of privacy after testifying in Congress.
"Why didn't anyone ever check up on me?'' she asked during her testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, according to a transcript.
Her class-action lawsuit, filed Friday in Philadelphia under the name Jane Doe, targets doctors and other professionals like Mancuso who have assets that could be seized. All of the named defendants are in prison for exploiting her. They come from towns across the U.S., including Stonington, Conn.; Port St. Lucy, Fla.; and Olympia, Wash. The Philadelphia Inquirer first reported on the lawsuit Tuesday.
"Scarred by years of brutal exploitation, she must now also bear the humiliating knowledge that untold numbers of men ... continue to take sadistic pleasure in viewing and distributing graphic visual depiction of her pain and degradation,'' the lawsuit said.
On any given day, that could include the man standing behind her in line at the grocery store, the lawsuit said.
More than 2,300 people have been indicted by the Justice Department for viewing Masha's images alone. She is notified each time the list grows.
"If you get down into the court files, and start reading about the images that these people were downloading and viewing for their pleasure, it's frightening and depressing,'' said Leighton Moore, an Atlanta lawyer who represents the young woman. "Some of them are day care workers. Some of them are policemen, firefighters.''
About a dozen lawsuits have been filed under the 2006 law, but Moore is the first to seek class-action certification, so that his client does not have to endure serial litigation. Some of those cases have ended with judgments, but Moore did not know if any victims have been able to collect.
He declined to discuss how his client is doing or whether she is in school or working.
"You can imagine the kind of experiences that she's been through leaves some scars,'' he said.
Mancuso, an engineer in his mid-40s, had sought to adopt a girl between the ages of 4 and 6, explaining that he wanted to make up for his strained relationship with his teenage daughter, according to the Congressional hearing transcript. He then repeatedly raped and sexually abused Masha on camera, sometimes during trips to Disney World.
Mancuso, who lived in Plum, is serving a 15-year federal sentence for child pornography. He also faces a state sentence for child rape and incest when he leaves federal prison.
According to the 2006 Congressional hearing, a social worker sent Russian officials a report after the adoption describing Mancuso's home as warm and loving, all based on a phone interview. The Somerdale, N.J., woman whose adoption agency placed her with Mancuso told the Congressional panel that in-home checks were then voluntary on Mancuso's part.
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