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Families shocked by criminal charge for teen sexting

Posted September 1, 2015

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— Two high school students face legal action after being charged sexual exploitation, leaving many families with unsettled emotions.

Cormega Copening and his girlfriend Brianna Benson—students at Jack Britt High School in Fayetteville—found out the hard way.

“I’m sure they have no idea that’s what’s going to happen,” Anne Heard, a mother of two, said. “They think they’re just having fun; they don’t know the consequences.”

Copening started at quarterback for the Buccaneers on Aug. 21 but was benched last Friday and won’t return to the field until his legal issues are resolved.

Authorities said Copening and Benson, 16, exchanged five sexually explicit pictures using cell phones.

Both were charged with five counts of sexual exploitation—a felony.

Parents in the area said hearing the news left them with unsettled feelings.

“I would not be happy if my kids were doing that, but I didn’t know it would be illegal,” Mandy Kelly said.

Child psychiatrist Seth Tabb said parents need to educate themselves first on the laws, and then follow suit with their kids.

“Say to them there are laws you may not be aware of that you are violating,” Tabb said. “This could put you in trouble, this could follow you all of your life.”

Tabb said he urges parents to speak openly and protectively to their teens, at a time when emotions aren’t running high.

“This could hurt somebody else besides you,” Tabb said. “Do you want your name and this image or these issues coming up as the first thing somebody finds on a google search?”

Tabb said he also encourages parents to discern whether their kids feel pressure to sext or are doing it consensually, or whether there is a more malicious intent—like circulating the images as a form of cyberbullying.

Copening is due in court Sept. 30 for the sex charges. If convicted, he would have to register as a sex offender.

22 Comments

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  • Terry Lightfoot Sep 2, 2015
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    you mean the charge is for 5 felonies? Wow..I know the law is there to protect underage kids- but that is excessive to say the least. Sent to his girlfriend...what good comes from charging him and her with all these felonies? Nothing. Give them other ways to learn from this, all kids see these days are sexual images..movies, TV, MTV Miley But ugly Cyrus, Grand Theft Auto, etc. etc.

  • Sonja Yagel Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

    My, times and people have really changed and its not for the better. I am so glad I grew up during the time when no one I know would have done anything like this and parents would have punished kids for such behavior instead of defending them. Lord, this world is in a mess.

  • Belle Boyd Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

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    It is a fed. under 18 law. If you are under 18 then you can't send nude pics of yourself because you are a minor/child. But as many have pointed out that law was made to protect kids/teens from the real preverts, but now it is being used against kids/teens for stupid choices. Branding kids/teens as sex offenders because of that is excessive.

  • Sam Adams Sep 2, 2015
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    If this is a under 18 law then WRAL needs to change their polling questions or clearly state that. The poll question reads "Did you know that sexting is a crime?" It does not say for under 18 years old only. Therefore leading one to believe this law applies to everyone.

  • Doug Bradley Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

    The whole thing is screwed up. A 25 year old can have sex legally with a 16 year old but if she sends him a nude pic it's a felony. Common sense much??

  • Doug Bradley Sep 2, 2015
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    Anthony Weiner didn't get charged because the women were over 18.

  • Gabrielle Williams Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I see they are continuing to put this child's picture of daily. yet not the girls. The DA is over reaching and it is just wrong. They are basically trying to ruin this boys life and future. I challenge all teen parents to check their child's cell phone and see what you see. I think you would be surprised.

  • Amy Carey Sep 2, 2015
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    They are doing this kind of thing every day to teens, for consensual sex, for nude photos, etc. More young people than ever before are being charged with statutory rape and disseminating pornographic materials and being branded sex offenders. The label won't mean anything before it's all said and done. Ruining kids futures to prove a point... Back in the 80s, kids used polaroid cameras for the same thing.

  • Sam Adams Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I am assuming WRAL left out a lot of the details about this story (like usual). I don't see how this is a crime, if they were both dating and both under 18. Now after they break up if one of them started sending out naked pics of the other, then I can see how that would be a crime. But as things are stated in this article I fail to see how they are breaking any laws.

    Furthermore, we don't need the government to create law for every single aspect of our lives. If you want to start "sexting" with your significant other then you should be able to do so. Its called Freedom.

    Also, this kid might get into significant trouble over this, but I never heard about charges being brought upon Anthony Weiner for his pics. Things are really backwards right now.....

  • Vanessa Poston Sep 2, 2015
    user avatar

    I sure hope these kids get these charges dismissed or plea down to something minimal. Five counts of sexual exploitation- a felony!!!

    Jim Abernethy, former Fuquay Varina official, was indicted on charges of taking indecent liberties with a child. He actually abused children yet managed to work that down to five counts of misdemeanor sexual battery and was given a 60-day jail sentence as part of a plea agreement. The jail time was suspended to five years on supervised probation. He, deservedly so, had to register as a sexual offender.

    As my mother would say, that's swallowing a camel and gagging on gnat. Our justice system is, pardon the horrible pun, perverted.

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