N.C. just prosecuted a teenage couple for making child porn — of themselves

Is it possible to sexually exploit one’s self?

That question is one of many conundrums in the recent case of a teenage North Carolina couple charged with making and distributing child pornography.

Their alleged crime: snapping and sending nude photos — of themselves.

The case has drawn fierce criticism from legal scholars around the country, many of whom see it as an egregious misuse of laws intended to protect — not prosecute — minors. The story of the two teens caught in a terrifying legal morass has also made headlines as far away as Russia. Meanwhile, local officials have begun blaming one another for the bizarre prosecution. Even the lawmaker who crafted the law says it’s being misapplied.

“Pretty much everything about this case is appalling,” Mary Anne Franks, a law professor at the University of Miami, told The Washington Post in an e-mail.

The strange story began last year when the Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office was investigating accusations of a statutory rape involving students at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville, N.C., according to the Fayette Observer.

As part of a broad investigation, Sheriff’s deputies examined the cellphone of Cormega Copening, a star football player who was then 16 years old.

The deputies didn’t find any evidence relating to the alleged statutory rape. What they did find, however, were consensually taken nude photos of Copening and his girlfriend, Brianna Denson, also 16 at the time.

(The Post is using the teenagers’ names because they have been charged as adults. They did not return requests for comment.)

“We seized his phone and while our investigators went through the phone they saw there were photos of himself and another person,” Sgt. Sean Swain told ABC 11.

In almost any other state, such consensually taken photos would be completely legal or, at worst, a misdemeanor. But in North Carolina, Copening and Denson came up against a counterintuitive confluence of laws.

“In North Carolina you are considered an adult at 16 years old as far as being charged,” Swain said. “But to disseminate and receive sexually explicit texts, photos or videos, you must be over 18.”

And so it was that in February, the two teenagers were arrested for sexually exploiting … themselves.

Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/09/21/n-c-just-prosecuted-a-teenage-couple-for-making-child-porn-of-themselves/