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Teen Boy Will Be Charged As Adult For Having Naked Pics of a Minor: Himself

Kafka-esque sexting nightmare

CopeningABC 11A North Carolina 17-year-old caught in a sexting scandal faces charges of sexually exploiting a minor that could land him in jail for up to 10 years, since the law considers him an adult. But one of the minors he supposedly exploited is himself­—which raises an obvious question: how can a teen be old enough to face adult felony charges, but not old enough to keep a nude picture of himself on his phone?

Unfortunately, that’s the Kafka-esque nightmare in which Fayetteville-area high schooler Cormega Copening finds himself after exchanging private nude photos with his girlfriend—with whom he is legally allowed to have sex, but not to sext.

I wrote about Copening’s story on Tuesday. Since then, I’ve learned new information that makes the local sheriff’s office’s actions seem even more ludicrous.

But first, to recap: Copening and his girlfriend—now identified as Brianna Denson—are like other teenagers in that they have more than a passing interest in sex. Indeed, when they were 16, they exchanged racy sexy photos via text message. Denson sent pictures to Copening, and Copening sent pictures to Denson. It appears that no one else saw the pictures until local authorities searched Copening’s phone and discovered them.

Why did they search his phone? It’s not clear, but local news reports claimed that it had nothing to do with the sexts themselves. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment. According to fayobserver.com, there is no record of a search warrant being issued for Copening’s phone.

Both teens were charged with sexual exploitation. Denson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was given 12 months of probation.

Copening, however, is still facing two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. As Ricochet’s Tom Meyer points out, the third-degree charges—which constitute a majority of the total charges—actually stem from the pictures Copening had of himself. The implication is clear: Copening does not own himself, from the standpoint of the law, and is not free to keep sexually-provocative pictures, even if they depict his own body.

But consider this: North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other is progressive New York) that considers 16 to be the age of adulthood for criminal purposes. This mean, of course, that Copening can be tried as an adult for exploiting a minor—himself.

I discovered this when I asked Fayetteville Observer Executive Editor Mike Adams about his publication’s decision to release the names of the teens (something countless other local news reports did as well). He explained to me that it’s the company’s policy to publish the names of adults charged with felony crimes, which includes Copening and Denson, in this case. But The Observer didn’t fully comprehend that Copening and Denson were also the victims—and, by some bizarre quirk of the law, minors in a different sense—until after its original reporting on the issue had already been published.

 “I don’t think sexting was considered when this sexual exploitation law was put on the books,” Adams told me.

Indeed. Maybe the legislature should revisit the issue. In the meantime, there is still no excuse for local cops to pursue charges against Copening. They have already humiliated him and damaged (perhaps irreversibly) his high school football career over mildly worrisome behavior that should not even constitute a crime. Cumberland County should exercise some discretion—perhaps some maturity as well—and let this matter go.

The Observer's Paul Woolverton also covered the insanity of North Caorlina's sexual exploitation law as applied in this case. Read his excellent story here.

Photo Credit: ABC 11

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

    They're too busy poring over the evidence.

  • Quixote||

    As indeed they should be. This article again subversively questions one of the most basic premises of our great nation's criminal justice system: that the letter of the law must be applied to all criminal conduct, so that we can populate our penal colonies with men and women of all ages and from all walks of life. The author makes much of the fact that these culprits could almost be conceived of as acting without the requisite criminal intent to exploit one another (and themselves). But let us not play with words. No one, for example, would dream of excusing a deviously deadpan, and highly inappropriate, act of criminal impersonation on the grounds that it was "almost" satirical. Such acts are either clearly satirical, or they are not, in which case they cross the line into the rankest form of criminality and must be punished with forced labor and internment. See the documentation of America's leading criminal satire case at:

    http://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

  • RBS||

    Who is Kafka-esque?

  • Tony||

    It's a great adjective that applies to much of the US criminal justice system.

  • Shang Tsung||

    Obviously you are not Kafka-esque! But Franz Kafka was one of the best authors of the 20th Century! I advise you to go back to school, and to PAY ATTENTION this time!

  • Logan||

    Come on man--gotta catch the Michael Scott references!

  • MarioSmario||

    Not sure paying attention in school would educate anyone. The opposite is more likely to keep you clear headed.

  • EdMurray||

    An adjective referring to this phenomenon:

    "The first paradox is that the Law is supposed to be an expression of justice that transcends all individual human cases, but it is, in fact, unjust because it is so abstract, because it is oblivious to the individual human case."

    http://www.shmoop.com/the-tria.....theme.html

  • Plàya Manhattan.||

    It makes more sense with the picture.

  • pan fried wylie||

    What are you trying to say about people who wear yellow shirts?

  • R C Dean||

    I find posting a pic of the dude, but not the chick, to be sexist.

    WHY ARE YOU SO BIGOTED, REASON?

  • Suicidy||

    They're both black.

  • RBS||

    It’s not clear, but local news reports claimed that it had nothing to do with the sexts themselves

    So they were searching for something else, stumbled upon the sexts then kept looking through them? Who is sexually exploiting who again?

  • Bradley Strider||

    When the cops look at underage porn, it's not a crime. Very Nixonian.

  • Suicidy||

    Nixon wasn't into Pervy shit.

  • bacchys||

    Just Edgar in drag...

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It appears they couldn't get him on whatever it was they were looking for originally, but BINGO they found something else.

  • lackoffaithless||

    Either you're right and the prosecutors have zero conscience, or you're wrong and they have zero conscience or brains. Can't think of what other reason they wouldn't just say "wait a minute, this obviously makes no sense, we can't prosecute this."

  • blcartwright||

    According to the article, there were allegations that photos of a student were being distributed against their will, and I agree that would be reprehensible.

    Without a warrant, they asked the boy's mom if they could search his phone for pics of the person in question. They found none, but they did find sexually explicit selfies, so he was charged as an adult in the exploitation of his minor self.

    Seriously, the arrest warrant lists him as both the perp and the victim.

    Then, because he sent the pics to his girlfriend, they took her phone and found her pics, and charged her with exploiting herself.

  • ||

    Crazy. Just batshit insane.

    The parents must be buzzing.

  • John Galt||

    "Conservatives Throwing Bongs"
    404
    The webpage cannot be found.
    HA HA HA!
    wtf

  • Pulseguy||

    I'm having difficulty really 'getting' this story. I think I need pictures. If someone could only post the pic of the girlfriend that was on his phone it should clear it up for me.

  • Shang Tsung||

    Stop fronting, you want to see the pictures of him!!!

  • Meerkatx||

    Actually, we need a pic of the girl and the cops. If they turn out to all be white, well that would explain a lot as to why he was charged with a tonne more chargers and why both of them were charged with anything at all.

  • Suicidy||

    The girl is black.

  • Doctor Whom||

    If characters from Bend Sinister and Atlas Shrugged could get together and have a special-needs child....

  • Trouser-Pod (The blowhard)||

    So, this is what happens when prosecutors treat the CJ system as a game of Boggle.

    "How many charges can YOU make before the time runs out?"

  • commodious spittoon||

    I like that. In fact, I'm taking that.

  • ||

    So, this is what happens when prosecutors treat the CJ system as a game of Boggle.

    Leagle as the portmanteau of 'leaning on them' and 'boggle', right?

    Police testily so that attorneys can leagly convict a criminal and everyone can go home at night having done their job.

  • ant1sthenes||

    In the criminal punishment system, the state is represented by two separate, yet equally reprehensible groups. The police who instigate crime and the district attorneys who persecute the defendants. These are their stories.

  • Win one for the chipper||

    mildly worrisome behavior

    You misspelled totally awesome

  • Devil's Candy||

    If a minor having explicit pics of themselves on a phone is exploitation of a minor, then a minor jerkin-off is sexual molestation of a minor. Logic fail.

  • blcartwright||

    That's what I thought. If a 16 or 17 year old is pleasuring himself, then that's a crime of an adult sexually assaulting a minor. Decades in jail, a lifetime on the predator registry.

    "However, he said, in cases where the defendants and victims were willing participants and close in age, his office typically lets them plead guilty to a misdemeanor with a deferred prosecution."

    I would think that the defendant and the victim were both willing participants and close in age, seeing as they were the same person, according to the arrest warrant.

  • R C Dean||

    his office typically lets them plead guilty to a misdemeanor with a deferred prosecution

    What a peach.

  • Libertymike||

    No miniarchism, no prosecution.

    Anarcho-free enterprise land: text away!

  • ant1sthenes||

    True, the kid would have just been shot by the sort of people who would, in a less anarchic society, be cops, and the people in the area would be motivated, through a healthy mixture of rational fear and apathy (possibly exacerbated by prejudice), to ignore it and say it was a dispute between the kid's family and the not-cops.

    Granted, if they got up to that sort of thing too often, then I guess there would be a proto-state. And since people are what they are, they would, so there would be.

  • Jay Dubya||

    wtf are you talking aboit

  • ||

    There has to be more than meets the eye here. They must have it in for this kid for some additional reason, because it's too asinine to be anything else.

    It could be racism (the only pics you get off the girlfriend's name on Google are of a white girl), it could be envy of teen sex, it could be personal. But there has to be more, because I can't believe that these charges can be made to stick if the kid has even a remotely competent lawyer.

  • R C Dean||

    Its asinine regardless of whatever other reasons they have.

    Seriously, how do you argue this?

    "Your honor, this is heinous crime because Mr. Copening is a minor who was sexually exploited due to his age and lack of maturity. And Mr. Copening should be tried as an adult, because of his age and maturity."

  • ||

    That's my point. You can't. So this entire prosecution is irrational. And people tend to do irrational things, ironically, for reasons (usually emotional).

  • ||

    So long as it conforms to the internal logic of the legal argument according to the law, it can be argued, and it can be argued successfully, depending upon the orientation of the judge. And from what I can tell, remotely competent lawyers exist in clusters here and there in the country and are nigh unknown everywhere else.

    I once saw a prosecutor argue that possessing a container which had once held cannabis but which was empty at the time of seizure qualified as possessing "less than an ounce". Prosecution and defense argued back and forth some time, neither even rising to the level of barely competent in their efforts, but natheless the judge ultimately ruled that this interpretation was sound and let the prosecution move forward, despite the obvious absurdity of this interpretation.

    As for what could have set this whole mess in motion--it could be ANYTHING. That's the nature of the totalitarian scheme. It becomes increasingly random and arbitrary, and eventually no one is safe, no action is safe to do, even those which are commanded by the agency of control. So, in such a state of things, there's rarely much valor in going back and discovering in precisely what way and in what moment the accused happened to piss somebody off, especially when there's frequently no rational motivation behind the accuser's offendedness.

  • ||

    "That's the nature of the totalitarian scheme. It becomes increasingly random and arbitrary, and eventually no one is safe..."

    Actually, there's one exception, being Stalin's regime, in which there was one safe person, being Stalin. In every other case I can think up, even the supreme leader was not entirely free from possibly being devoured by the process. I think the difference was in Stalin's habit of ruling, which was much more purposive and less whimsical than is usually the case, specificly in his systematic terrorising of everyone, ëspecially his loyaller underfucklings. Being less insane than most authoritarian tyrants, he succeeded at accomplishents much more horrific than could be carried out by his more lunatic peers. In this, he was well served by the Marxist habit of thought, which is like a controlled slow-burn psychosis, where reason is not simply destroyed but rather progressively replaced with more and more outlandish fantasy logic.

  • Robert||

    The trouble is, these are not, in essence, judgement calls. Although kiddie porn has been denied free-speech status because it exploits unconsenting minors, the justif'n for that gets stripped out & only the bottom line remains: it can be criminalized as obscene, regardless of how it comes about, as long as actual models are involved. Whether someone is an adult for purposes of criminal liability is a separate determination, so the facts don't have to jibe w those of the victimhood status. The facts of one are not allowed to bear on the other.

  • blcartwright||

    There's only one Brianna Denson in Fayetteville on Facebook, and she's friends with CJ Copening of the same place. She has a pic of both of them, clothed, and both are black.

  • ||

    Sure, she might be. I'm just looking for a reason for why the prosecutor seems to be acting in an irrational, absurdly sadistic manner with charges that are going to be hard to argue for.

  • Judge Forrest's Clitdong||

    Let's hypothesize that the prosecutor is either an angry virgin or somone who missed out on so much youthful sex that he might as well be. We'll call him "Bo". Bo usually throws misdemeanor plea deals at teens who get caught like this, fulfilling his need to crack down on young people fucking while avoiding too much tumult. Usually they plea out. But if someone doesn't plea out, what is Bo to do? They aren't respecting his authoritah, AND they're having the sex that Bo never had. The answer is simple. Plow ahead with all the charges, and just keep repeating "The law is the law".

  • tarran||

    That Bo fellow sounds like a complete bastard.

  • Libertymike||

    Ernst Rohm?

  • Libertymike||

    Ernst Rohm?

  • Francisco d'Anconia||

    Bo?

  • tarran||

    William the Conqueror?

  • Scarecrow & WoodChipper Repair||

    Ernst Rohm?

  • ||

    Jesus?

  • DenverJ||

    True fact: Mary and Joseph were illegal Mexican immigrants. Who else would name their child "Jésus?"

  • Suicidy||

    Rat Bastardson?

  • Libertymike||

    Do you really think that he would lower himself to even consider working in the DA's office?

  • ||

    Those 40-year-old virgins sure are bitter, aren't they? And touchy about it too. Very touchy.

  • tarran||

    Comically, my son told me a couple of days ago that he occasionally reads Hit and Run and that he had a question he needed to ask me:

    "What the hell is wrong with Bo Cara? He's an incredible asshole."

    I did not have the presence of mind to ask him about his opinion of you, Episiarch.

  • RBS||

    "raging asshole"

  • Suicidy||

    And I'll bet he said "I've got a bad feeling about that Suicidy".

  • Robert||

    As has suggested, could have something to do w football.

  • Jerryskids||

    While it's fine to name-and-shame the perp, journalistic standards dictate you don't normally use the name of the victim of sex crimes, so I sure as hell hope that picture is of the adult child molestor and not a picture of the innocent child he preyed upon.

  • Libertymike||

    Those are not journalistic standards to emulate. If anything, the victim should be named and not the alleged perp.

  • lackoffaithless||

    What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

  • Antilles||

    It's OK because he magically became an adult once charged with the crime. But the photos were taken before he was charged when he was just an innocent child. Why is that so hard for people to understand?

  • Rich||

    Indeed.

    Kafka-esque or *Heisenberg*-esque?

  • Antilles||

    If a victimless crime occurs and there's no cop to witness it, is it really a crime?

  • ||

    Yes.

    /DA

  • Alan@.4||

    I'm not familiar with the second reference though I would think that the first, most definitely applies.

  • Suicidy||

    What has methamphetamine manufacture got to do with this?

  • West Texas||

    Both teens were charged with sexual exploitation.

    ------------------

    They exploited each other?

    That's like the The 6th Sense meets The Departed. What a plot twist!

  • ||

    Jake: Book us for tomorrow night.

    Maury Sline: Hold it, hold it. Tomorrow night? What are you talking about? A gig like that, you gotta prepare the proper exploitation.

    Elwood: I know all about that stuff. I've been exploited all my life.

  • Rich||

    Maybe the legislature should revisit the issue.

    Maybe Copening should put his pics on a flag.

  • Nosea||

    "A North Carolina 17-year-old caught in a sexting scandal ... " What scandal? Neither parents filed charges, how can they be charged with anything ? I really hate to ask...was the cop white?
    Maybe, he doesn't like nude black bodies.

  • commodious spittoon||

    As an aficionado, that's impossible.

  • Judge Forrest's Clitdong||

    As a co-aficionado, I agree.

  • Tony||

    All cops are on a mission to make their wangs the biggest in the free world, even if it takes locking up most men in the country and some women, and no they're not going to lose any weight to help things along.

  • Suicidy||

    I don't, in my porn. I like them nice and albino. Oh yeah.

  • tommyboy||

    He's been sexually abusing himself for years and now he'll finally pay the price. Thank heavens we caught this pedophile. Hopefully he will have to register as a sex offender and live away far enough away from himself that he is safe.

  • Alan@.4||

    Marvelous, absolutely marvelous.

  • Alan@.4||

    I wonder as to the following, re the above article. Only In America.

  • SQRLSY One||

    When I was a youngster... I do admit, at that time, I was eating trilobites for breakfast...

    I used to admire my youthful body in the mirror!!! (Hangs head in shame).

    Today, would I be busted for "child porn" for that!?!?!

  • Agile Cyborg||

    Robby, always remain a ninja for common sense, babe. I dig your passion vista. This twisted shit is inculcated with odious amounts of legalistic atrocity and yet still gleefully shouldered by a cadre of cognition-challenged police fucks who have shitty poopers filled with their own goddamned brains.

  • DenverJ||

    AG! Lay down some sweet words, dude, while I get the beat going.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Welcome back, AC! Weeee wuz worried about ye...

    (Bring ON that them thar odious malodorous amounts of shitty poopers, Ah sez!!!! Bring it ONNN, Bro!!! Ken AHHH haz sum?!?!? )

  • Johnimo||

    To paraphrase the incomparable Winston Churchill, "This is the type of nonsense up with which we ought not put."

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    Churchill was Yoda?!

  • DenverJ||

    Yes, this is well known. Have you been living a rock under?

  • SimonJester||

    In the field of human conflict, never was so much owed by so many to so few, mmm?

  • anthonydpaul||

    I'm curious about the implications as our households become more digital. What if you have a motion-activated security cam with rolling backups in your home server and your toddler streaks the living room? Is it a crime if you know of the possibility of child nudity on your server at any given time, but can't confirm it because nobody looks at it until the prosecutor does? There's a Schroedinger paradigm in here somewhere...

    The prosecutor, by confirming child nudity exists on the server, is actually the cause of the nudity because they altered the quantum state. I think that's how it works.

  • Don'tTreadOnMeChipper||

    more like Δ = nRT or something....

  • Agile Cyborg||

    The future if managed by people who buy Porsches writing law is generally going to be a tyrants play field. Attorneys and the legal writers propping up the entirety of this country are close to penning the heart out of America. And penning the bullet and prison into the average lifestyle that was normally associated with common sense and open-minds and fuck-it-we-get-it. The future of always on we-know-everything-everywhere is around the corner and if entire careers will be lost over a weekend party. entire careers will end based on a mistaken report lodged in a database. jobs will be lost over a sideways glance at a cop. Kids will starve because FINRA regs which exist now will ravage entire pasts and fire people over mistakes and common failures many of which have since been fixed but a record remains.

    Look at FINRA. This is the future of what will employ and fire your children.

  • DenverJ||

    A word-picture well painted: You describe reality while not partaking, and offer no solutions but to join in the escape.

  • A Cynic's Guide to Zen||

    The Cyborg is ruthlessly efficient in its hopelessness and fear-mongering. A veritable rabble-rouser, that Cyborg!

  • Kagemusha||

    I wonder. If they ever masturbated, could they be charged with statutorily raping themselves?

  • DenverJ||

    Only if you are poor, or the wrong religion, or the wrong color. Those people are up to no good all the time, and if you can't bust 'em for what they got away with, then bust 'em for whatever you can make stick.

  • widget||

    Only if you are poor, or the wrong religion, or the wrong color. Those people are up to no good all the time...<//i

    You are experiencing some empathy for poor white American Christians?

  • Rich||

    And if they never masturbated, could they be charged with lying to the police?

  • Jeanie Clement||

    He looks like an upstanding member of the community.

  • ||

    He looks like an upstanding Negro of the community.

  • EdMurray||

    Yes, he genuinely does. Your comment may be intended as sarcasm, but I'm stating mine as genuinely meaning that.

    The kid took his girl to the prom and played quarterback. And here's the pics: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new.....hotos.html

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  • Matrix||

    Is it wrong to tell the charging officer to shoot herself in the head with her service pistol, to tell the DA deciding to prosecute the case to jump off the tallest building in the city, and tell the judge who allowed this all to go on to drink a bottle of Drano? Is it wrong to ask that they kill themselves to rid the world of 3 jackasses?

  • Ed Kline||

    It's like you want another subpoena for the magazine...I do as well.

  • mr burns||

    if they can prove he masturbated they can charge him with having sex with a minor as well .

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  • antodav||

    You could make much more cash by giving me a blow job.

  • antodav||

    What ever would we do without a government to protect ourselves from hard-bitten criminals such as this…

  • Mr. Flanders||

    Would bet the girl was white and the officers are white.

  • Meerkatx||

    The teenager inside the box is both an an adult and minor?

    This is like some sort of dystopian bull crap level of reasoning.

  • Ed Kline||

    "over mildly worrisome behavior'"

    You go to far. You concede too much. There is nothing worrisome about any of his behavior.

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  • Danny Sprinkle||

    Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black refused to view materials in pornography cases because they were protected by the First Amendment. Randomly selected juries would go a long way to putting a check on draconian laws and prosecutorial overreach.

  • SoCal Soccar Mom||

    So, if he exploited himself by taking photos of himself, is every teen in North Carolina who ever masterbate guilty of sexual exploitation of a minor?

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  • GLoLady||

    #No #Search #Warrant for Cell Phone No #Charges

    RILEY v. CALIFORNIA
    CERTIORARI TO THE COURT OF APPEAL OF CALIFORNIA,

    FOURTH APPELLATE DISTRICT, DIVISION ONE

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/op.....2_8l9c.pdf

  • pferguso||

    File a motion for show cause hearing, at which you will demand the prosecutor show a search warrant signed by a judge, supported by an affidavit of probable cause. Upon his failure to produce it, file a motion to suppress evidence (fruit from the forbidden tree) because the photos were obtained illegally. No evidence, Case dismissed.

  • chicity222||

    This is a perfect example of when a specific geographical area has too many law enforcement officers and too little criminal activity. What kind of use of taxpayer's money is this witch hunt? Charge an individual with a life destroying crime, a child in this case, for taking naked pictures of himself and having them on his phone (or whatever device).... I bet there are 4 detectives and however many other LEOs working this DEFCON 4, priority 1, mandatory overtime case. Are we really becoming the society of idiocracy?

  • amishanarchist||

  • Rock Cowles||

    Vote Libertarian. Get the government out of our homes, bedrooms, phones, and lives! They are supposed to serve us! This is ludicrous. It's like giving someone a life sentence for attempted suicide! www.LP.org

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