Loren Copp is facing child pornography charges.
Former karate-teaching pizza maker Loren Copp has done some curious things since taking over his own defense in a child pornography case.
Most have been the general clumsiness one might expect of any legal novice playing lawyer at his own high-stakes felony trial — improperly worded questions, bizarre systems for labeling exhibits and the chaotic assembly and reassembly of witness lists. But some moves go directly against prior legal advice. For example, Copp's (successful) bid to have his penis photographed.
Back when Copp was represented by federal public defenders, his attorneys were able to swat down prosecutors' attempts to photograph his genitalia, which the government had hoped to match to some rather sickening images taken from Copp's computers.
The former owner of Dojo Pizza in the Bevo Mill neighborhood is accused of producing, attempting to produce and possessing child porn. Prosecutors say he manipulated and sexually abused
girls who lived with him at the converted church.
Copp's former counsel argued that penis pictures were unnecessarily intrusive. The lawyers worked out a compromise with the U.S. Attorney's Office
in which the karate instructor would have his stomach, hands and feet photographed, but not his genitalia.
A lot has changed since then. Copp has been through multiple attorneys and decided on the eve of trial
he would be better off representing himself. He has "standby counsel," but he is in charge of running his own defense. That has allowed him to cross examine prosecution witnesses
, including a teenage girl who alleged on the stand that he sexually abused her for years, sometimes photographing them engaged in illicit sex acts.
The photos have been carefully shielded from the public view during the trial, but several were described as having been taken in identifiable locations, including Copp's master bedroom at a previous home.
At least one of the underage victims has identified herself and Copp in the pictures. However, Copp has insisted he is not the man in the photos. To that end, on Tuesday, he was able to persuade U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig to allow him to have pictures of his penis taken.
Fleissig set aside time before trial resumed Wednesday morning to accommodate a photo session while Copp remains in the custody of U.S. Marshals.
Even though Fleissig has allowed the pictures to be taken, it's unclear whether she will permit Copp to use them during the trial. So far, he has not tried to have them admitted into evidence.
He is now presenting his case. Prosecutors finished with their witnesses on Tuesday, and Copp spent Wednesday calling police officers, his sister, former neighbors, people once associated with his now-defunct school and an inmate to testify. He has indicated he plans to call more than twenty witnesses. He may also decide to testify.
The case resumes on Thursday.
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