The crime involves pictures of a naked minor, but he is being charged as an adult for possessing images of himself on his phone.
Mark Horne has written about the “porn police state” before (also here). He has also written about how severe penalties are used due to moral outrage that, while justified, involves prosecuting a person for a crime he did not commit.
It seems we have all of that as well as a bizarre mental self-contradiction in this post by Robbie Soave at Reason.com: “Teen Boy Will Be Charged As Adult For Having Naked Pics of a Minor: Himself.”
In case the headline leaves you confused, let me add to your confusion:
- A sixteen-year-old in North Carolina can be tried as an adult for the felony charge of possessing an image of a naked sixteen-year-old?
- Two sixteen-year-olds can have sex legally in North Carolina.
- So two people who can have sex can be put in prison for years if they send unclothed images of themselves to one another.
- Sixteen-year-old Cormega Copening is being charged as an adult for possessing an image of a minor on his phone—his own!
Both teens were charged with sexual exploitation. [Girlfriend Brianna] Denson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was given 12 months of probation.
Copening, however, is still facing two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. As Ricochet’s Tom Meyer points out, the third-degree charges—which constitute a majority of the total charges—actually stem from the pictures Copening had of himself. The implication is clear: Copening does not own himself, from the standpoint of the law, and is not free to keep sexually-provocative pictures, even if they depict his own body.
But consider this: North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other is progressive New York) that considers 16 to be the age of adulthood for criminal purposes. This mean, of course, that Copening can be tried as an adult for exploiting a minor—himself.
So a person can be labeled as an adult but his image can be labeled as that of a minor.
I hate sexting just like I hate all other forms of fornication. I hate the damage teens are allowed to do to one another. But mixing a bunch of irrational, unpredictable, and harsh punishments into this immoral environment does not solve anything.
Soave wants the North Carolina legislature to fix this. I wish there was a way of removing the prosecutor from office. People who think up and implement these torments should not be allowed to have power.
Incidentally, we still have no explanation as to how the police got to search the boyfriend’s phone.