Earlier this month, we discussed (or rather, ridiculed) a North Carolina’s law enforcement agency’s stupid and bizarre prosecution of two teens who consensually sent explicit photos to each other. There was the first (and most familiar) layer of stupidity: the charging of both with distributing explicit material to minors (both teens were 16 at the time of the sexting). Then there was the unexpected stupidity: the charging of both for sexually exploiting themselves. This gained an additional layer of stupidity when the law treated the teens as both minors (being exploited) and adults (doing the exploiting) when processing them.
Most of the charges centered on photos taken of the teens by themselves. These nude pictures of themselves — possessed by themselves — were somehow criminal acts. The state’s laws have ensured no teen can take/possess a naked photo of themselves without risking being prosecuted as a sex offender, even if they never distribute the photos.
The female half of the sexting duo accepted a plea bargain back in July. It now appears the male participant has done the same. The two plea agreements are substantially similar according to WRAL, which means both teens have been screwed by a “justice” system seemingly obsessed with punishing consensual (and normal) teen behavior — statutory contortions be damned.
The terms of the plea agreements are extremely onerous, considering the acts were consensual and there was no age discrepancy between the participants. What the teens have agreed to sounds not too different than what’s routinely handed to other sex offenders — except that these teens molested no children, possessed no child porn and performed no acts of sexual violence. Comega Copening, the other participant in this heinous two-person sexting ring will be treated as a criminal not worthy of his own phone for the next 365 days. AND THAT’S NOT ALL…
[One] year of probation. During that year… 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.
The same terms apparently apply to Brianna Denson’s plea bargain as well — as does all the attendant ridiculousness of treating two consenting teens of the same age as child pornographers of each other… and of themselves.
The remaining charge — the one Denson and Copening have been sentenced for — is no less ridiculous than the dismissed charges of sexually exploiting themselves. What remains are charges for “disseminating harmful material to minors,” which presumes the dissemination itself was harmful, even if it was welcomed and reciprocated.