Social Media Influencer Sentenced for False Report of Kidnapping Attempt

A California woman and Instagram “mom influencer” who reported and posted online about an attempted kidnapping of her two young children in 2020, was sentenced to 90 days in jail for making a false crime report, prosecutors said.

A Sonoma County Superior Court judge sentenced the woman, Katie Sorensen, 30, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Thursday. She was convicted of the misdemeanor in April.

The district attorney, Carla Rodriguez, said that 60 of the 90 days could be served on a work-release program.

Ms. Sorensen was also sentenced to 12 months of informal probation. During this time, she was ordered to have no social media presence, to submit to warrantless search and seizure of her electronic devices and to complete a four-hour implicit bias training program, in addition to paying various fines and fees, the district attorney said. Ms. Sorensen had faced a maximum sentence of six months in jail.

She was immediately remanded after her sentencing.

“Ms. Sorensen has been held accountable for her crime, and we believe the judge handed down a fair sentence,” Ms. Rodriguez said in the statement. “Our hope is that this measure of accountability will help provide some closure to the couple that was falsely accused of having attempted to kidnap two young children.”

Ms. Sorensen’s lawyer, Charles D. Dresow, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

On Dec. 7, 2020, Ms. Sorensen visited a Michaels craft store in Petaluma, Calif., about 40 miles north of San Francisco, with her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, prosecutors said.

After purchasing some items, prosecutors said, she loaded her children into her car and left the store’s parking lot.

“A few minutes later Ms. Sorensen called the Petaluma Police Department and reported that a couple had tried to kidnap her children,” prosecutors said.

About a week later, Ms. Sorensen published a video on Instagram describing “the near abduction of her young children, adding significant details that had not been disclosed to the Petaluma Police Department,” prosecutors said.

In the video, which has since been deleted, she said she wanted to share her story to raise awareness “and to just encourage parents to be more aware of their surroundings.” She described being followed around the store by a couple who had made comments about the children and tried to kidnap them.

The video was viewed more than four million times, and Ms. Sorensen appeared on a local news program to repeat her account, drawing wider attention.

When Petaluma police officers followed up with Ms. Sorensen, she identified a couple from a surveillance video at the Michaels store as the alleged kidnappers.

The couple, Sadie Vega-Martinez and her husband, Eddie Martinez, who said they had been shopping at the store, “fully cooperated with the investigation” and “denied the allegations being made against them,” the Petaluma Police Department said at the time.

In 2021, Ms. Sorensen was charged with three misdemeanor counts of making a false report of a crime. The jury acquitted her of the first two counts, which were related to statements she had made to a police dispatcher and a police officer on that Dec. 7. But she was convicted for her statements made in the third interview, which took place a week later with a detective.

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