RALEIGH — Charges were dismissed Thursday against a North Carolina teen caught in legal morass where he and his girlfriend were charged for taking selfies that authorities had initially identified as child pornography.
The father of 18-year-old Cormega Zyon Copening confirmed to The Associated Press that the charges were dismissed Thursday in Cumberland County court. The Fayetteville Observer first reported the development.
The newspaper also reported the case against Copening’s former girlfriend was dismissed in February.
“Everyone is happy,” Robert Copening said in a telephone interview. “I believe he’s the happiest of them all.”
The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office arrested the teens in February 2015 on felony charges of making and possession of child pornography, saying nude pictures had been found on their phones months earlier. They were each 16 at the time.
Under a quirk in the law, the legal system treated them as adults for purposes of prosecuting them, but also considered them minors by deeming their selfies child pornography.
The charges were subsequently reduced to misdemeanor charges of disseminating harmful materials to a minor, which were dismissed after the teens completed probation terms. The AP typically doesn’t name underage crime suspects and hasn’t identified the teen previously, but Robert Copening consented to identifying his son on Thursday.
Copening said he asked in court what would happen to his son’s phone and was told that authorities might destroy it, which he said he supported.
“We don’t want it back,” he said. “But we don’t want pictures sliding out there either.”
He plans to start work on getting his son’s record expunged Monday, he said. But before that, he plans to buy him a new phone because he’s been prohibited from owning one for the past year or so.
“We need to be able to check on his whereabouts,” he said.
After this experience, he doesn’t expect his son to take or share nude photos again, he said. “I would hope he would be scared just because of what he’s been through,” Copening said.