Influencer Mom Guilty of Lying About Attempted Kidnapping
The issue of race is divisive enough in this country without attention-seekers falsely accusing people of color of serious crimes. But at least one perpetrator is getting their comeuppance, and it's making headlines in Wine Country.
Katie Sorensen, a white social media "mommy influencer" from Sonoma, was convicted of one count of filing a false police report in which she accused a Latino couple of attempting to abduct her kids—and this false accusation was repeated by her on an Instagram video that garnered millions of views.
We'll break down the sordid tale here.
Sorensen Reports Attempted Kidnapping
On December 7, 2020, Sorensen went shopping with her two kids at a Michael's craft supply store in Petaluma, California. After checking out, she returned to her car, loaded in her purchases and children, and drove away. It seemed like a normal, eventless day.
But moments later, the Petaluma Police Department got a phone call from a mother who reported that a strange couple had tried to kidnap her children. That caller was Katie Sorensen.
Sorensen Goes Public
But she didn't stop there. About a week later, Sorensen turned to Instagram. She posted a video in which she went into great detail about the alleged incident—including details she had not told the police.
After the video went viral, she repeated her story to KTVU, a local news outlet, telling the reporter that a man and woman had followed her around the craft store. She claimed to have noticed the man staring at her in the parking lot before going into the store. At one point, she said that she overheard the man describing her kids' physical features to someone, possibly on the phone.
Sorensen told KTVU that the couple got in line behind her, didn't buy anything, then followed her outside. She said that the man reached out like he was trying to grab her stroller, at which point she yelled for help. Then, the couple allegedly ran to their car and sped off. She added that the couple didn't appear "clean cut."
The Couple Comes Forward
The police followed up with Sorensen and reinterviewed her. During the second interview, she identified a couple from Michael's store video footage as the culprits.
The accused couple, Sadie and Eddie Martinez, saw their photo on the news and came forward to deny the accusations. They said that they had popped into the store to buy a nativity scene shortly before Christmas. To the couple, nothing had seemed wrong. They denied having anything to do with Sorensen, much less her kids. Sadie and Eddie are Latino, and accused the mother of racial profiling.
California v. Sorensen
Based on the store video and the couple's statements, the police cleared the Martinezes of any wrongdoing—and instead arrested the "momfluencer." They charged Sorensen with several misdemeanors: one count of filing a false police report and two counts of a false report of a crime to government officials.
A jury found her guilty of filing a false police report, but acquitted her on the other two counts. She was taken into custody on $100,000 bail, and faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez stated, "This verdict will enable us to hold Ms. Sorensen accountable for her crime, while at the same time helping to exonerate the couple that was falsely accused of having attempted to kidnap two young children. The case is also important in that it illustrates the importance of using social media responsibly." The DA's office made it a point to pursue charges.
While applauding the jury's acquittal of two of the counts, Sorensen's attorney, Charles Dresow, said that his client had merely "misperceived and misunderstood a series of random events, which were occurring around her, and made a [sic] honest report to the police." He added that Sorensen realized she was wrong after reviewing the evidence, and that she didn't know how her story would spread or the impact it would have. He has not said whether Sorensen will appeal her conviction.
What Should Sorensen Do?
Sorensen should cut her legal losses. Avoiding conviction on two of the three counts is a victory, given the discrepancies between the reports she made to the police and the evidence submitted at trial. The police and the Sonoma County District Attorney's Office had her dead to rights. She should serve her sentence and get on with her life.
She should also apologize to the Martinezes. If she innocently misperceived events as her lawyer claims she did, owning up to her mistake shouldn't be hard, especially after the Martinez name was smeared in the media. As Sadie Martinez testified, "We were forever labeled child abductors." An apology is truly the least Sorensen can do, even if her lawyers are telling her not to admit any fault.
Why Did She Do This?
Did race motivate Katie Sorenson? We don't know for sure. She has stated that she simply misperceived events. But if that's true, Sorensen shouldn't be trusted. And if she intentionally lied, she can't be.
All we know for sure is that a Latino couple went shopping for Christmas decorations at Michael's. And that was enough for Sorensen to report them to the police for attempted kidnapping—and then use them to up her Insta following. The lengths some people will go to for clicks.
A couple of words of advice for Katie: you may want to get a new hobby. Being a social media influencer is too much responsibility for you. Since you seem to like crafts, consider knitting — it will give you time for reflection.
Or at the least, deleting your videos and switching your @motherhoodessentials Instagram account to a private setting is a great start.
And finally: gear up for the Martinezes' defamation lawsuit. To maximize their recovery, we hope your "influencing" has been lucrative.
- Filing a False Police Report (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Defamation and Social Media: What You Need to Know (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- 5 Ways Instagram Can Lead to Legal Trouble (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life Blog)
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