A 17-year-old faced being registered as a sex offender and going to jail for up to 10 years because he had naked selfies of HIMSELF on his phone. To avoid those possible life-wrecking ramifications, Cormega Copening was forced to make a plea deal.
When Copening was 16-years-old, the nude pics were discovered after warrantless searches by law enforcement. Apparently there was a widespread problem at Copening’s high school in Fayetteville, North Carolina of students sharing sexual images without consent. During the investigation, two sexually explicit images of Copening were discovered as well as a naked image of his girlfriend, Brianna Denson, who was 16-years-old as well.
Even though Copening was 16-years-old, he was still prosecuted as an adult, under federal child pornography laws, for sexually exploiting a minor, which was himself. Copening was hit with five charges of sexual exploitation of a minor. Copening was also suspended as quarterback of the Jack Britt High School football team while the case was ongoing.
Denson, who also had naked photos of herself on her phone, was charged with two felony sex crimes against herself. Both teens took a plea deal of admitting to two counts of disseminating harmful material to minors. Copening and Denson received the same punishment, a year’s probation during which time they are banned from carrying cell phones.
The two teens could have had sex with each other and not broken any laws because the age of consent in North Carolina is 16.
Justin Patchin, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin and co-founder of the research website cyberbullying.org, commented on the case:
In most states, these crimes are technically on the books but are not typically used to prosecute similarly aged teenage lovers under 18 who have shared images only with each other consensually.
Seems like the laws have not advanced with the times and the technology. The premise that there are federal child pornography felony laws that punish an individual for sexually exploiting a minor when that minor is the same person is ludicrous.