Theater shooter ordered to pay nearly $1M

Posted at 11:05 PM, Dec 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-05 01:05:16-05

The Aurora theater shooter has been ordered to pay nearly $1 million in restitution but it's a mostly symbolic gesture since it's unlikely that James Holmes will ever earn that much money in prison.

On Friday, the judge ordered the shooter to pay $851,493 to the Victim Compensation Fund and $103,385.95 directly to the victims, the exact amount the prosecution requested.

"In this regard, the Court finds that the People have established good cause to believe: (1) that Victim Compensation will continue to make payments for many years as a result of pecuniary losses suffered by the victims of the defendant's horrific crimes, and (2) that the victims will separately incur more expenses to address the physical, emotional, and psychological injuries inflicted by the defendant," Judge Carlos Samour wrote in his decision.

The amount of restitution could increase.

Samour wrote that, "the Court also orders the defendant to pay restitution for all future expenses incurred by the victims and Victim Compensation as a result of his shocking crimes. This includes, but it not limited to, lost wages, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, counseling, psychological care, psychiatric care, prescription drugs, medical services, medical equipment, and any other treatment or therapy."

The shooter was also ordered to pay 12 percent annual interest, which will likely increase the amount to more than $1 million.

"It's important that we, as a community, hold defendants accountable," said prosecutor Lisa Teesch-Maguire. "For a crime of this magnitude, frankly us, seeking just less than a million dollars in restitution, is really not an exorbitant amount of restitution."

-- Where does Holmes' money come from? -- 

Prison inmates pay restitution out of their inmate account.  Money that Holmes earns in prison or that is donated to him is put into his inmate account.

He currently has $370 in his Department of Corrections account. He also had more than $4,600 in his Arapahoe County jail account, most of which came from donations from strangers, but it's unclear what happened to those funds.

It's unclear what kind of job Holmes will have in prison, but DOC inmates are paid 23 cents to $2 per day for performing various tasks, according to a 2012 memo from the Colorado Legislative Council Staff. They are only allowed to work 23 days a month. 

A Colorado Department of Corrections spokeswoman confirmed with Denver7 that if an inmate's account has more than $2,500, 100 percent of any new money will go to restitution.

If the account has less than $2,500, any money earned or deposited into the account will be divided with 80 percent going to the inmate account and 20 percent going to restitution.

Teesch-Maguire admits that about 2 percent of all restitution is ever paid back. In this case, that would be about $19,000.

-- Various expenses listed in request -- 

Prosecutors had submitted a spreadsheet to Samour detailing the amounts the victims were seeking in reimbursement. The names were blacked out in the version posted online, but not the amounts and reasons.

One victim was seeking $2,000 for a prosthetic leg replacement.

The Crime Victim Compensation Fund allowed for $20,000 per victim, but did not cover all of this victim's needs.

"$20,000 doesn't cover one day of most of these people's medical bills," said Teesch-Maguire. "The fund pays for funeral expenses, medical expenses, mental health treatment, lost wages due to inability to work due to an injury or the loss of a loved one."

Teesch-Maguire spoke with 1,251 different victims in this case. One of them was seeking $4,200 for having to pay six months of rent after his roommate was one of the 12 killed in the theater.

Another murdered victim's family was seeking $5,500 for travel expenses to come to Colorado to attend the trial. A federal grant only provided two weeks worth of coverage to attend the trial.

"It paid for airfare, for hotel for them, rental car expenses and a $20 a day per diem," said Teesch-Maguire.

"There is no amount of money that can bring you back to the life that you once had," said Sandy Phillips, Jessica Ghawi's mother.

Phillips' claim is included in the spreadsheet, but does not yet have a dollar amount associated with what she'll seek from the shooter.

"I'm going to need to see a therapist and why should that come out of my income?" asked Phillips.

"For those that say, 'Well, I thought we were finished with this, we were through with this,' this is a lifelong tragedy," said Phillips.

Related: Public defender won't share theater shooting costs

Related: Gunman gets 12 life sentences plus 3,318 years

The Crime Victim Compensation Fund is a state account that receives money through fees paid by defendants. At the time of the shooting, victims could only seek up to $20,000 from that fund for reimbursements related to the shooting. That cap has since been increased to $30,000.


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