TEEN SELF- SEXPLOITATION
CHILD ABUSE LAWS LEFT LEGAL EXPERTS A CASE DURING WHERE TEENAGE STUNNED LOVERS WERE CHARGED WITH CRIMES AGAINST THEIR YOUNGER SELVES
Incredibly, these two were charged with sexually exploiting their younger selves
Ahigh school s tudent was suspended from his football team, faced jail time and was at risk of becoming a registered sex offender after he was found to ha ve images of a nak ed young man on his phone . Who was this victim? Himself . 17- year- old Cormega Copening fr om Fayetteville, North Carolina had taken naked ‘ selfies’ with his camera phone when he w as 16. The images had been s tored on his phone e ver since and only shared with his then- 16- year- old girlfriend Brianna Denson. He also had a naked image of his girlfriend on the phone , which hadn’t been shared. Police found the images in October 201 4 when searching Cormega’s phone during an in vestigation into an unrelated offence – allegations of sexually explicit images being shar ed at his school ( Douglas Byrd High School) without the permission of the subject. Cormega turned out not to be in volved in the incident but was arrested for the sensitiv e material on his phone. Brianna was also arr ested for having images on her phone . Because the tw o were 16 at the time the ‘ offences’ were committed they were charged as adults , as per North Carolina’s child exploitation laws.
How is it a crime to ha ve naked images on your phone of y ourself, you may rightly ask? Both of the teens’ trials made references to ‘ sexting’ but the main char ges against them related to the taking and k eeping of their own images. In North Carolina the age of consent for sexual intercourse is 1 6, yet Cormega and Brianna’s ‘ crimes’ related to the production and sharing of nak ed images, which you must by law be over the age of 18 to consent to. Cormega’s attorney said that he and his colleagues , who had discussed the bizarre case at length, had found “zer o examples” of under- 18s being charged for having a naked image of themselv es on their own phone. Regardless of how ridiculous it sounds, the young lovers were charged with crimes relating to the sexual exploitation of minors. The charges meant each party was simultaneously a predatory adult perpetrator and the minor victim in need of being protected by the law.
Federal child abuse image felon y laws ( passed in 1983) apply to e very state in the US. Despite this ,20 states have enacted legislation, often nicknamed ‘ Romeo and Juliet’ laws, to avoid prosecuting teenagers who exchange naked pictures with each other as a couple during a period of time , where there is no exploitation involved. In many states across the US, including North Carolina, legislation against‘ sex ting’ is in place to mitigate the charges of child abuse image laws, which can affect consensual teenage lovers. Online safety advocates have voiced their concerns for outdated laws, which were made before the use of mobile phones and before ‘ sexting’ was a way for consenting teenage lover store main intimate in their relationships.
In July 2015 Brianna took a plea deal to avoid being convicted of felon y charges and admitted to a misdemeanour charge of ‘ disseminating harmful material to minors’. She was put on probation for one year and ordered to pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, refrain from using illegal drugs and alcohol, take a class in making good decisions and do 30 hours of community service . She was also banned from having a mobile for one year. In September, Cormega took a similar plea deal. Both were promised that if they complied with the terms of their deals , then their records would be wiped after a year. In 2016 it was reported that all criminal charges against the teenagers had been dropped. Cormega’s parents have voiced their intentions to push for a change in the law under which their son was charged.
Cormega Copening w as c harged with tw o counts of second- de gree and three counts of third- de gree sexual exploita tion of a minor – after taking ima ges of himself