A teen looking at felony sex offender charges for taking and keeping nude photos of himself has agreed to a plea deal, and will now spend one year on probation to clear his record. That probation includes not protesting police searches without a warrant.
The Fayetteville, NC 17-year-old, Cormega Copening, faced five charges of sexual exploitation after police found the photos while searching his phone in an unrelated incident at his school last fall. The photo was taken when he was 16. Copening faced four counts over two photos: one for taking sexually explicit photos of a minor; another for possessing sexually explicit photos of a minor. The minor in both cases was the teen himself, who was named both victim and perpetrator of the crime.
The charges are possible because in North Carolina, minors can be charged as adults for a felony offense. That loophole is what prompted the Fayetteville Observer to publish the young defendants' names in the first place—usually, the identities of minors in criminal cases are not made public.
The fifth charge was over possessing a naked photo of his girlfriend, Brianna Denson, who was also 16 when they exchanged the photos. She faced two charges for making and possessing the nude photo of herself, and took a comparable plea deal back in July.
As part of the plea deal, Copening accepted two reduced counts of disseminating harmful material to minors, WRAL reports. Like Denson, his year-long probation includes a ban on his cell phone. From the Fayetteville Observer:
District Court Judge April Smith sentenced Copening to a year of probation. During that year, her order says, Copening must stay in school, take a class on making good decisions, complete 30 hours of community service, not use or possess alcohol or illegal drugs, not possess a cellphone and must submit to warrantless searches.
If Copening and Denson keep to the terms of their probation, their records will be wiped clean.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.