Underage Teens Face Several Felony Charges For Sexting Each Other — Both Opt For Plea Deal

Two underage teens found themselves on the wrong end of “giving and receiving.” Little did they know of the sexting laws in North Carolina and their severities.

In Fayetteville, Cormega Zyon Copening was sexting his girlfriend, unbeknownst of the elevated punishments for sexting activity between minors. According to ABC 11 – News, the incident occurred in October 2014. However, the couple wasn’t charged until the following February. The teens faced sexual exploitation charges and would have had to register as sex offenders in the state of North Carolina. But why would they sentence the teens so harshly for sexting?

According to North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper, law enforcement gets involved in these particular cases for a reason. While some think the punishments are too harsh, there are reasons they treat these teens as potential sex offenders. Digital, sexting media is easily spread and manipulable.

“…the sexual photos may be shared and circulate widely throughout a school or peer group. Regardless of how or why it is created, once a digital image has been shared via any electronic media it is virtually impossible to retrieve. Nude or suggestive photos are routinely posted, traded, and sold. They can be altered and misused, and remain in circulation forever…”

“If a photo shows a minor engaged in sexually explicit conduct it may be treated as child pornography by law enforcement. Producing, possessing or distributing the photo could lead to criminal charges regardless of the original intent of the photographer. In addition, the young person’s parents or guardians may be questioned to determine if they knew about the photograph.”

The United States Department of Justice further clarifies the details of “child pornography” in Section 2256 of Title 18, United States Code. And under Section 2251, it specifies that of sexual exploitation. So, by sexting each other while underage, these teens were facing very real charges.

As reported by Fayetteville Observer, Cormega Copening was hit with five charges.

“The agency hit Copening with five sexual exploitation of a minor charges – four for making and possessing two sexually explicit pictures of himself and the last for possessing a copy of the picture that Denson made for him.”

The same source also notes his girlfriend, Brianna Denson, and her charges.

“The girl was listed on a warrant as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of minor – second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her photo in her possession.”

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However, as part of a plea agreement, as ABC 11 – News reports, the couple has agreed to misdemeanor counts of disseminating harmful material to minors. This will get them both a year of probation. And if they successfully complete it, their records would be expunged. However, specifically for Denson, District Court Judge Stephen Stokes ordered a few more stipulations. As reports Fayetteville Observer, they are as follows.

“He ordered her to pay $200 in court costs, stay in school, take a class on how to make good decisions, refrain from using illegal drugs or alcohol, not possess a cellular phone for the duration of her probation and to do 30 hours of community service.”

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first case in teens receiving adult charges for sexting. Jeff Welty, from the University of North Carolina’s School of Government, mentioned that Indiana and Pennsylvania had similar cases in 2009. Likewise, several psychologists have spoken out against similar sentences.

From the University of Texas Medical Branch, psychologist Jeff Temple stated that, if these strict laws would be applied nationwide, there would be millions of teens charged with child pornography possession and distribution. As reports Fayetteville Observer, he says his research indicates that 28 percent of American teens use their phones for sexual activities.

Yet, is that reason to refute such laws over teenagers engaged in sexting? What do you think about it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

[Photo Credits: Chris Clinton/Digital Vision/Getty Images]