When the Law Makes No Sense

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Not all laws are good laws.  Not all laws are fair.  Not all good laws are applied fairly.  But normally there is at least some logic behind laws drafted and adopted by state legislatures and enforced by competent, adult prosecutors sworn to uphold the Constitution.  I say “normally” because on rare occasions you may hear a story of a ridiculous law struck down as unconstitutional or a rogue prosecutor missapplying an otherwise valid law.  But then there is the case of Cormega Copening, a sixteen year old North Carolina teen who was charged with multiple felony counts for sexually exploiting a minor.  Copening, you see, was caught with naked pictures of a minor on his cell phone.  Here is the thing though, the naked pictures were of HIMSELF.

I had to read the Copening case multiple times before I ultimately satisfied myself it was not an elaborate internet hoax.  Unfortunately it is true and it is unequivocally outrageous.

Last year the Cumberland County Sheriffs Office in North Carolina was investigating a claim of statutory rape.  As part of the investigation, students at Douglas Byrd High School in Fayetteville had their cell phones searched.  Copening was one such students and the police found naked pictures of himself on the phone.

In what feels like an episode of the Twighlight Zone or a bad remake of the Matrix, Copening was actually charged with a felony for exploiting a minor . . . the minor being himself.  Under North Carolina law it is illegal to take naked photographs of a minor child for purposes of sexual exploitation.  That part of the law is completely rational.  Under the law, a 16-year-old is considered a minor, which is also rational.  However, a 16-year -old who is accused of sexually exploiting a minor can be charged as an adult . . . and this is where things flew off the track for Cormega.

Because Cormega was only 16 years old when the pictures of himself were taken, he was considered a minor capable of being sexually exploited. But as the 16-year-old who took the photos he was also technically old enough to be charged as an adult for sexually exploiting a minor.  “Okay,” you may be thinking to yourself, “but no rational person or government would even think about charging a 16-year-old as an adult for exploiting himself as a minor.”  Right?  Right?  But that is exactly what happened to Cormega.

He was arrested and charged with a felony for sexually exploiting a minor, the minor being himself.  Earlier this month Cormega pled guilty to a lesser charge. Even so, you have to question how something like this could ever happen in a rational world.  How can a teenager exploit himself for having naked pictures of himself on his cell phone?  How is that any different than looking at himself in the mirror?  The answer is that it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever completely illogical and frankly embarrassing. Dont believe me?  You can read more about it here:

http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/sep/20/teen-prosecuted-naked-images-himself-phone-selfies

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