Charged With Possessing Kiddy Porn…of Yourself?!?

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Courtesy of Tribune Media Service.

Zaria Swain, Editor in Chief

[This article is part of our “Busted!” issue]

Is it possible to be convicted of being the victim and perpetrator on the same legal document?

Two teens in North Carolina have been prosecuted for having naked selfies of themselves on their cell phones. Cormega Copeneing was sixteen when he and his girlfriend decided to send naked pictures to each other. The teen boy was subject to a random search by police in Fayetteville, North Carolina.

He was charged with several counts of possession of “CHILD PORNOGRAPHY” (of himself).

Police say they were under investigation of a statutory rape case that was filmed. While  searching his phone for evidence of that crime, they uncovered the photos of Copeneing that he had been sending to his girlfriend and one photo that she had sent him, this lead to them both being charged with sexual exploitation of a minor.

 Both teens were listed as the victim and perpetrator on the same legal document?  Yes.  They were charged as adults but also listed as the victims as minors. This is a complete contradiction of the North Carolina law which states, that kids who are 16 and 17 can be tried as adults when a crime is committed, but in this case they were prosecuted as because they were minors when the pictures were taken.

According to Sgt. Sean Swain says, “We were given permission to search the phone by the owner.”

 Copening allegedly gave his phone to the authorities, but he was unsure of what they would be looking for. Police say the incriminating photos weren’t something they were looking for, but after they found them they just made the charges applicable to the teen and his girlfriend.

Apparently one lesson that can be learned is… if you are a minor, know that you still have rights. Don’t give police direct access to your phone if they don’t have a search warrant, especially if you have self-incriminating evidence on it. This is where you could say Copening went wrong.  He might also have been scared about not-cooperating, which caused him not to think about what he was actually handing over. Maybe he simply assumed the pics were hidden, or  that the police were not tech-savvy enough to find them.

In any case, the plea deal Copening had to make to avoid ADULT prison time includes–get this–random police searches for one whole year, and probation.  Not to mention his name is now forever attached to several nationally published articles about his private life, which are the first search results that appear if you Google his name.