Tuesday, April 24, 2018

As Loren Copp Rests His Case, Judge Will Decide Dojo Pizza Proprietor's Fate

Posted By on Tue, Apr 24, 2018 at 1:09 PM

click to enlarge Former Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp is accused of sexually abusing girls in his care. - STEVE TRUESDELL
  • STEVE TRUESDELL
  • Former Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp is accused of sexually abusing girls in his care.
The fate of former Dojo Pizza owner Loren Copp is now in the hands of a federal judge.

Copp, 49, is facing charges of producing, attempting to produce and possessing child pornography featuring underage girls who were in his care. There are nine counts in all.

"Your honor, I would never ever harm these children," Copp told U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig this morning during a sometimes teary closing argument. "I love them."

Copp represented himself during the ten-day trial, battling accusations he groomed and manipulated the juvenile victims during years of disturbing abuse.

He was the subject of a Riverfront Times cover story in December 2015.

Two of the girls lived with the former pastor for nearly a decade, so long they had started calling him "Dad." They eventually moved with him from his house in south county to an old Bevo Mill church that Copp transformed into a karate studio, school, community center and pizzeria.

Other young girls also moved into the Dojo Pizza building while their mothers were incarcerated, homeless or dealing with heroin addiction. Federal prosecutors allege Copp abused them, too.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Winfield says that Copp used a variety of methods to manipulate the girls, including catfishing them on Facebook where he posed as a thirteen-year-old girl named Chrissy.

"Chrissy" persuaded the girls to take and send graphic naked photos of themselves through games of truth or dare.

"The defendant saw these photos, because he is Chrissy," Winfield told the judge.

Investigators seized computers and hard drives during a series of raids in the fall of 2015 at Dojo Pizza. During her closing statement, Winfield worked through images from Chrissy's Facebook chats and cross-referenced them with copies of the same photos discovered on Copp's devices.

There were also photos of one of the victims engaged in sex acts with a man in Copp's former residence. The man's face apparently is not visible — the photos haven't been publicly displayed — but the girl testified it was Copp.

He has denied it and even suggested he is the victim of a law enforcement conspiracy, carried out by someone implanting child porn throughout his computers and possibly creating doctored photos.

Winfield rejected any conspiracy theories, pointing out the incriminating pics and videos were mixed throughout various files with Copp's other photos and documents. They span years, and locations include Copp's old house, a "resort" in DeSoto where he took the girls and the shower area at Dojo Pizza.

Beyond the girls' testimony, Winfield argued that the round torso of the man in some of the photos and tape, such as the kind worn by martial artists, on his foot further prove it was Copp carrying out the abuse.

"The defendant is guilty of all nine counts beyond a reasonable doubt," Winfield told Fleissig.

Judge Fleissig said she will now review all the evidence. She has not given a date for reaching a verdict, but she said she will ultimately deliver it in open court.

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

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