Ex-Dojo Pizza Owner Loses Appeal in Sex Crime Case

Jun 11, 2021 at 3:17 pm
Former Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp abused multiple girls for years, a judge found. - STEVE TRUESDELL
Former Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp abused multiple girls for years, a judge found.

Ex-Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp, convicted on child pornography charges, has lost an appeal.

Copp had argued his conviction was unjust, because he wasn't allowed to introduce photos of his penis during his 2018 trial. The former karate teacher claimed he has a birthmark that doesn't match waist-down photos of sex crimes found on his computer. Barring an actual photo, he said he should have been able to have his former cellmate testify about the birthmark.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig denied both requests during the trail. In an opinion released today, a three-judge panel for the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Fleissig. They noted that the photos were many years old by the time of the trial, and they found that a new photo wouldn't prove anything.

The judges also found that a new photo — or testimony from his cellmate — wouldn't have done him any good anyway, because the other evidence against the former karate teacher was "overwhelming."

Until his arrest in 2015, Copp lived with multiple teenage girls in a converted church in the Bevo neighborhood. A former pastor, he operated the place as a pizzeria, school and community center, where he taught karate and hosted events. The girls landed in Copp's care when they had nowhere else to go, often because their parents were battling addictions or serving time.

His young victims testified during a grueling ten-day trial, enduring long cross-examinations from Copp, who acted as his own attorney. The appellate judges noted that prosecutors had initially sought to have Copp's genitalia photographed, along with other parts of his lower body that were visible in seized photos, but he balked and they eventually settled for photographing everything but his penis. Then, in a mid-trial reversal, he insisted new pictures were crucial to his defense.

Judge Fleissig admonished Copp for waiting until the last minute to make the request and found that the new photos wouldn't add anything of value. She later found him guilty of eight of nine counts, including production, attempted production and possession of child pornography.

In December 2019, Fleissig sentenced Copp to 65 years in prison. She described his abuse of the girls as "among the most heinous crimes in our society."

Copp has never admitted wrongdoing in the case.
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