Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dojo Pizza's Loren Copp Rejects Plea Deal in Child Porn Case

Posted By on Tue, Jun 6, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Loren Copp rejected a plea deal on child porn charges. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Steve Truesdell
  • Loren Copp rejected a plea deal on child porn charges.
The former sensei of Dojo Pizza says he will fight child porn charges at trial.

Loren Copp, 48, on Tuesday formally rejected an offer from prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for a recommended prison sentence of twenty years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Winfield told a judge that was the government's final offer.

"There will be no agreement in the future," Winfield said, noting that Copp's attorneys had previously approached the government with an offer of fifteen years in exchange for a guilty plea.

Copp is accused of producing, attempting to produce and possessing hardcore pornography, including images depicting underage girls in the old Bevo Mill church where he lived and ran a combination karate studio, pizzeria and online school. A shifting number of teen girls stayed with him at the church, including two who had lived with him so long he referred to them as his daughters.

Copp, who was the subject of a Riverfront Times feature story, was originally targeted in a labor trafficking investigation, sparked by a confidential informant, according to court documents. He was never charged with trafficking, but computers seized during multiple raids in the fall of 2015 turned up the disturbing images that led to the charges he now faces, authorities say.

He was arrested on April 7, 2016.

The karate master has repeatedly insisted that did nothing wrong. He claims he's the victim of a conspiracy that mushroomed from the complaints of one of the pizzeria's live-in volunteers, who was angry when Copp forced her to move out.

His attorneys — federal public defenders Nanci McCarthy and Charles Banks — have tried to get the items seized during the raids thrown out, along with statements made by Copp. They argue the initial searches were illegal and everything that followed is "fruit from the poisonous tree."

Copp was quiet in court on Tuesday. Appearing thinner, his gray hair clipped short, he answered Judge Noelle Collins with "yes, ma'am" and "no ma'am." He spoke up only to ask McCarthy to clarify for the record that he had never agreed to any offer, including the fifteen-year plea deal floated by his attorneys.

McCarthy characterized the offer as a "negotiating tool" and confirmed that Copp had never agreed to it.

Copp, who faces a sentence that could add up to more than 100 years in prison if convicted, has been in custody for about thirteen months now. Even before his arrest, he had been forced to vacate Dojo Pizza, once located at 4601 Morganford Road. The city cited him for more than three dozen building code violations and then seized the building after his arrest for an unpaid tax bill of nearly $14,000.

The property was sold at auction in August, and the investor quickly resold it to a church. City records show Tabernacle of Worship Church of All Nations closed on the property two weeks ago.

We welcome tips and feedback. Email the author at doyle.murphy@riverfronttimes.com or follow on Twitter at @DoyleMurphy.



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