A high school football player could spend the next 10 years of his life behind bars for sexting his high school sweetheart. According to reports by WRAL, police in Cumberland County, North Carolina, were investigating an alleged statutory rape when they asked Cormega Copening’s mother if they could confiscate his cellphone. Copening was not a suspect in the initial investigation, so his mother allowed officers to look through the teen’s phone for possible evidence sent by a third party.
But officers began reading text messages in Copening’s phone and noticed nude photos that he took of himself and others sent by his 16-year-old girlfriend. Copening was immediately arrested for possessing child pornography. In North Carolina, you can only receive and send explicit material if you’re over 18. However, individuals who are 16 can be charged as adults when accused of committing a crime.
The law was established to protect teens from exploitation by older adults. But like many archaic laws that are still on the books in the South, the law fails to recognize the reality of modern-day relationships.
Copening has been charged with two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. If convicted, he could face 10 years behind bars and be forced to register as a sex offender. Since the charges surfaced, he has been dropped from his high school team.
His girlfriend took a plea deal and was sentenced to one year probation without access to a cellphone, a class on making smarter life decisions, and a $200 fine.