The Sexting Persecution Of Cormega Copening


Charging kids with crimes for sexting themselves to a fully consenting fellow kid always seemed excessive and cruel to me. This story is the reductio ad absurdum that settles the matter.

In Fayetteville, North Carolina, 17-year-old Cormega Copening and his girlfriend Brianna Denson, also 17, began exchanging naked photos of themselves in text messages when they were 16. They were the only ones who saw the pictures, but someone somehow tipped off local authorities, who searched Copening’s phone and discovered them.

Copeling and Denson were charged with sexual exploitation. The Cumberland County Sheriff’s Office concluded that Denson had committed two felony sex crimes...against herself. A warrant cited her as both the adult perpetrator and the minor victim of two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, second-degree exploitation for making her photo and third-degree exploitation for having her own nude photo in her possession. A conviction could have put Denson in prison and would have required her to register as a sex offender for the rest of her life. Denson pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and was given 12 months of probation.

Her sexting partner Copening, however, is still facing as much as ten years prison time for two counts of second-degree sexual exploitation and three counts of third-degree exploitation. As with Denson, the third-degree charges arise out of the pictures Copening had of himself.  That’s not the worst of the mind-twisting logic of this prosecution, however. North Carolina is one of two states in the country (the other: New York) that makes 16  the age of adulthood in the criminal system. The state’s consent laws consider anyone 16 and under a minor, but allows minors 16 or over to be charged as adults.

Gilbertian result: Copening is facing conviction, as an adult, for exploiting a minor—himself. Continue reading

Turning In Your Own Teen For Sexting?


I don’t understand this. I don’t understand the parents’ thinking at all.

I can understand reporting a child to the police who is a danger to others, who has committed a serious crime, who is a burgeoning sociopath or psychopath who needs to be stopped before something terrible occurs. I can understand when not doing so amounts to being an accessory and an accomplice. It has to be the most wrenching of parental decisions, but I understand these things.

This, however, I don’t understand.

In Dinwiddie County, Virginia, parents became suspicious, and checked their 13-year-old daughter’s cell phone and tablet. They discovered their daughter, soon to enter the eighth-grade, had been sending and receiving naked pictures of other teens, including those who were much older, 17 and 18.

CBS reports that the parents called in the sheriff’s office, even though it means that she might be charged with a crime.   “We did this now to protect her for now and in the future, because this could get worse. She could be taken,” she said.

She could also become the victim of an overzealous prosecutor, and end up in the criminal justice system for what is essentially pre-crime, become cynical and hardened before her time, and be permanently scarred, never to trust her parents again.

The story is sketchy, so there may be facts we don’t know. Before I would call the cops on my child at 13 for what is essentially high-tech flirting, I would consider..

  • Grounding her.
  • Taking away her electronic devices.
  • Getting her counseling.
  • Moving.

Wouldn’t you?

Ethics Quiz: “How You Gonna Keep Her Teaching The Class After It’s Seen Paree?”

horrified students

…..or “It May Not Be The Naked Teacher Principle, But It May Still Be A Problem.”

In the wake of the most recent post here about the Naked Teacher Principle, Ethics Alarms received many inquiries from readers who cited the news item about the hapless teaching assistant at the University of Iowa who somehow managed to send her class not merely sexually provocative photos of herself, not merely nude photos of herself, but something much more kinky. Attached to a message that read “Hi Class, I attach the solutions for number 76 and 78 in this email” were a series of images showing the young woman sans clothes and sans inhibitions having a lively cyber-sexting chat with a partner in which the two were pleasuring themselves in front of video equipment while streaming to each other.

Hmmm. That didn’t come out quite right.

Anyway, the question was: Does this conduct, which goes well beyond the conditions of the Naked Teacher Principle but which occurred at a university rather than a high school or middle school, trigger said principle, regardless of intent?

The answer is no, not regardless of intent. Continue reading

Let’s Be Clear: President Clinton’s Conduct Was WORSE Than Anthony Weiner’s

This won’t make some people happy, but it is true.

Who's more unethical? It's no contest.

Who’s more unethical? It’s no contest.

I always feel like Michael Corleone at times like these: just when I think I am finally through with having to point out the miserable ethics record of Bill Clinton, he (or his shameless supporters) puuuull me back …

The New York Post is reporting that…

“Bill and Hillary Clinton are angry with efforts by mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner and his campaign to compare his Internet sexcapades — and his wife Huma Abedin’s incredible forgiveness — to the Clintons’ notorious White House saga…’The Clintons are upset with the comparisons that the Weiners seem to be encouraging — that Huma is ‘standing by her man’ the way Hillary did with Bill, which is not what she in fact did,’ said a top state Democrat…’The Clintons are pissed off that Weiner’s campaign is saying that Huma is just like Hillary,’’ said the source. “How dare they compare Huma with Hillary? Hillary was the first lady. Hillary was a senator. She was secretary of state.'”

My reaction to this?


Karma’s a bitch. Continue reading

Taken Down As A Likely Hoax: “Speaking Of Dishonesty, Demonization, And Being Warped By Rigid Ideology, Here’s Sandra Fluke!”

I am taking down the post regarding the alleged insane statements of Sandra Fluke regarding the GOP’s culpability for Anthony Weiner’s sexting.  I am persuaded that it is a web hoax. Though it was sent to me as true, with a reference to “Best of the Web,” a reliable source, I have traced the item back to a blogger who tagged his post “satire” and “humor.”

This is why I detest web hoaxes.

While the claims attributed to Ms. Fluke were absurd and extreme, they were not especially funny, or  so removed from other positions she has advocated that the hyperbole here would be obvious, at least to me.


  • Gratitude and kudos to Arthur in Maine, who refocused my attention on the post.
  • Apologies and regrets to Ethics Alarms readers. I do check sources, but this time I didn’t check well enough.
  • I apologize to my fellow GULC alum, Ms. Fluke, for believing her capable of such idiocy.
  • I apologize to Emily’s List.
  • I apologize to James Taranto, to whom I originally and erroneously credited for the pointer.
  • I do not apologize to Rush Limbaugh or the GOP. My comments regarding them in relation to Sandra Fluke stand.

Ethics Dunce: Huma Abedin, a.k.a Mrs. Anthony Weiner

"Carlos Danger," running for an office that won't have anything to do with him if he wins it. Where is Monty Python when we need them?

“Carlos Danger,” running for an office that won’t have anything to do with him if he wins it, he tells us. Where is Monty Python when we need them?

There are periodic moments when I feel I am wasting my life. A recent one occurred when I heard Huma Abedin, the humiliated wife of New York mayoral candidate and serial penis-texter Anthony Weiner, or, as his friend call him when he’s showing his junk, “Carlos Danger,” say that his pathological and gross conduct, bolstered by public lies, deceit and posturing, isn’t a legitimate concern for voters, and that it is just “between us, and our marriage.”

As Stephen King would put it, a muffled scream builds to inevitability deep in my chest. Continue reading

Three Terrible Tales From the Busted Ethics Alarms Files…

An unfortunate side-effect of writing Ethics Alarms is becoming aware of such stunningly unethical conduct in all reaches of American society that it risks sending me into despair. I have no illusions about my level of influence over the problem—virtually nil—and the mounting evidence, often bolstered by the tenor of the comments to some posts, that our society does a poor job installing functioning ethical reflexes is both frightening and intriguing. What percentage of the American public go through their lives without functioning ethics alarms, and how do we tell who they are in time to protect ourselves?

As to the first question, I have no idea, but I suspect it is disturbingly high. The second question is even more difficult. Fear of consequences keeps most unethical people from revealing themselves until they face a crisis or an opportunity too tempting to resist. Then they do things like this: Continue reading

Another Sexting Pol: Drawing the Lines

"ARRGH! I didn't consent to THAT!"

From today’s  New York Daily News:

“Garden State Democrat Louis Magazzu announced his resignation Tuesday after nude pictures he sent to a woman he had been corresponding with were posted on a Republican activist’s website. At least two of the photos showed the Cumberland County freeholder’s crotch, two showed him dressed to the nines in a suit, and a fifth showed him waist up without a shirt.

Comments and observations:

  • Magazzu didn’t have to resign, but it was right for him to do so. Sexting is a problem among high school students, and it doesn’t help to have elected representatives indulging in it. He was humiliated by publication of the photos, and because the humiliation extended to his constituents and his party, resigning quickly was an appropriate, honorable, courageous thing to do—as it would have been for Bill Clinton, Sen. David Vitter, ex-Sen. Ensign, ex-South Carolina Governor Sanford, and others. He didn’t have to resign, however. Continue reading

To Jon Stewart, Ethics Hero: I’m Sorry I Doubted You.

Impossible conflict of interest? No problem!

I’m also glad that I waited before posting my article labeling Stewart, the much-revered cultural force who chairs Comedy Central’s satirical news hour, “The Daily Show,” an Ethics Dunce for wimping out in his initial tepid take on the Rep. Weiner scandal.

Stewart is a good friend of the sexting, lying New York Congressman, and for most comedians, leaving a high-profile friend in trouble off of their comic hit-list would not only be acceptable, but admirable. A comedian only has the obligation to be funny, and if he  chooses to be funny without slicing up a close friend in crisis, that just makes him a kind and loyal friend. Stewart, however, can no longer claim to be just a comedian. He has built a reputation as a truth-teller, leaning to the left, perhaps, but still willing to skewer idiocy, corruption, hypocrisy and dishonesty whenever and wherever they surface in current events. This means he is trusted, and that he has a duty to make  his audience laugh while displaying integrity, fairness, wisdom and good judgment. It’s a high standards to meet, but it is also the one Stewart set for himself by reaching it again and again. Continue reading

Unethical Quote of the Week: Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington

The fact that David Vitter is still stinking up the Senate means that it makes sense to let Anthony Weiner stick around and stink up the House. Yes, that's really the best the Democrats can come up with.

“It’s hard to see what the Ethics Committee would hang its hat on here to say that this conduct would violate the ethics rules. Others have said maybe it’s the lying. What! So no politician has ever lied to us before? That’s the kind of thing we see all the time. So he did behave discreditably (!!) but I don’t think it’s enough for a full-fledged ethics censure. David Vitter is still there.”

—-Melanie Sloan, Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, making excuses for Rep. Anthony Weiner on Lawrence O’Donnell’s MSNBC liberal love-in show.

As“Ethics Bob” writes, “If you’re a Democrat and you want an ethics pass, go see Melanie Sloan.”  Bob muses on what kind of behavior Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington “would consider irresponsible or unethical.”

It sure wouldn’t be Sloan’s own conduct, though she infamously used CREW to promote the client of a lobbying firm that she later jumped CREW to join (also conduct that is seen in D.C. “all the time,’ though not usually by heads of so-called ethics watchdog groups).* The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics does some good work, but it has always leaned heavily toward criticizing Republicans. Sloan’s statement to O’Donnell, however, is a new low, a disgrace for anyone who purports to take ethics seriously. Continue reading