A wannabe “momfluencer” in California who went viral after alleging a Latino couple tried to take her kids has been found guilty of falsely reporting a crime.
Katie Sorensen, 31, is in custody and could face up to six months in prison for fabricating the story of her children’s abduction.
She alleged that on December 7, 2020, Eduardo and Sadie Martinez attempted to kidnap her two young children at a Michael’s craft store in Petaluma.
Sorensen made a false police report minutes after exiting the parking lot and later posted two Instagram videos explaining how to avoid the fabricated kidnapping attempt.
Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said the jury’s guilty verdict will help exonerate the couple she falsely accused.
Ms Martinez said she was pleased with the verdict and believed ‘justice had been done’.
Wannabe momfluencer Katie Sorensen, 31, has been found guilty of filing a false kidnapping claim and faces up to six months in prison
Sorensen, pictured with one of her sons, claimed that on December 7, 2020, Eduardo and Sadie Martinez attempted to kidnap her two young children at a Michael’s craft store in Petaluma.
Sorensen, a mother of three, drove to the police station to report the couple’s actions and press charges before uploading two viral videos, which earned her more than 80,000 followers.
About a week after she filed her false police report, on Dec. 13, she posted the now-deleted clips detailing claims she avoided the so-called kidnap attempt.
They were viewed more than 4.5 million times on her Instagram page, and she attracted even more attention by taking to a local news program to repeat her account.
In her early videos, Sorenson sat in her car making the claims about Sadie and Eddie Martinez, who have five children and two grandchildren between them.
She said, “My kids were the target of an attempted kidnapping which is so weird to even utter but it happened and I want to share that story with you in an effort to raise awareness of what signals to look for and to encourage parents to be more aware of their surroundings and what is happening around them.
“I think right now we are so distracted by everything that is going on in the world that we are so wary of masks and want to protect children in that way that we forget the main way to keep them out . safe and that’s with us.’
Mr. and Mrs. Martinez reported to the Petaluma Police Department and they were cleared of any wrongdoing after the report was found to be false thanks to store footage and an investigation into the momfluencer was launched.
The Sonoma County District Attorney subsequently charged her with three felonies for filing a false report of a crime in May 2021: one she made to a police dispatcher and a police officer on December 7, and another to a detective a week later.
A jury found her guilty on the third charge Thursday after a day of deliberation, and Sorenson has been remanded in custody on $100,000 bail.
District Attorney Rodriguez said: “This verdict allows us to hold Ms. Sorensen accountable for her crime, while helping to exonerate the couple falsely accused of the attempted kidnapping of two young children.
‘The case is also important because it illustrates how important it is to use social media responsibly.’
A sentencing date has yet to be set, but the maximum sentence for felony conviction is six months in prison.
Ms Martinez, who owns a small business making balloon arches for parties, was pleased with the verdict and said she believed ‘justice had been served’.
“I feel like this is a step in the right direction for my family. I am grateful for the support,’ she told Elle magazine.
Sadie and Eddie Martinez (pictured in CCTV footage released by police), who together have five children and two grandchildren, were quickly cleared of any wrongdoing
The alleged incident took place in the parking lot of this Michael’s in Petaluma
She discovered the incident when her daughter showed her a community post from the Petaluma Police Department with a blurry screenshot of the couple and asked, “Mom, is this you?”
Officers then contacted her via Facebook to tell her and her husband to come to the station.
Mr. Martinez, a UPS delivery driver, said, “For Sadie and me, the game was up. We had to defend ourselves.’
They told the detectives their side of the story and families he delivered called the police to vouch for him.
“Katie probably should have done some homework and chosen other characters for her story.”
Police quickly closed the investigation on Dec. 17 after finding “no evidence or witnesses” corroborating Sorensen’s account and began investigating the momfluencer’s false report.
Ms Martinez believes she and her husband were targeted because of their skin color and hoped Sorensen would be charged with a hate crime.
She added, “But that’s very hard to prove,” she says, “so we had to be content with what we could get.”
“Prison won’t fix the systems that allow the Katies of the world to do these things in the first place,” she says. “She’s just one small piece of a big puzzle.”
According to the police statement, Sorenson said she noticed the suspicious behavior of a man and woman as they followed her and her children around the store and made comments about their appearance.
She told police they followed her to her car and hung over the stroller while she put her children back in the vehicle.
Police said Sorenson had not wanted anyone arrested when she made the report, but wanted to “draw attention to the couple’s worrying behaviour.”
But the Martinez couple came forward and they were cleared of any wrongdoing and the police started investigating the momfluencer.
However, in an interview with KTVU after she posted the videos, Sorenson passed on further claims about Sadie and Eddie Martinez.
“I heard them talk about my kids’ features, but I was totally paralyzed with fear, I just couldn’t bring myself to say anything,” she said.
She claimed she saw the man in the parking lot looking at her before she went in and that the couple had stood behind her at the register, but then followed her out without buying anything.
She noticed that when she got to her car, a white van was parked next to her, which she thought was odd considering the distance from the store.
The influencer pictured here with one of her sons
Sorenson also claimed that the couple took two steps forward and then two steps back as she watched her load her children into the car.
‘Very clumsy. There is no other explanation why they would do that, other than that they built up courage,” she claimed.
Sorenson told the station that the man had reached out and grabbed the stroller, but at that moment another man walked past and she started screaming for help.
She claimed the pair fled the scene in a car, but a third man quickly emerged from the white van. She said he pretended to try to help her before fleeing himself.
“I saw these people, they didn’t necessarily look clean,” Sorenson told KTVU.
Erika Margarita Mitchell, a relative of the couple, posted on Facebook praising prosecutors for charging Sorensen on the case
“I was uncomfortable with them, and instead of making them uncomfortable with my discomfort, I chose to remain in my discomfort.”
Sorenson told Buzzfeed that she was very overwhelmed by the response to the videos.
She said she wanted those who sent her negative comments to note that she “faced a traumatic experience, it is impossible to function at full capacity.”
Ms Martinez said at a press conference at the time: ‘I couldn’t believe it. It’s like we’re literally guilty of being tan while shopping.’
And her daughter Esaia told BuzzFeed News, “This is nowhere near the first racial injustice in Petaluma, but we are certainly thankful that the truth was rightly pursued in this case.”
Erika Margarita Mitchell, a relative of the couple, posted a message on Facebook praising prosecutors for charging Sorensen at the time.
She said, “Great news for all of us, but especially my cousin, Sadie Vega-Martinez and her husband Eddie. They were falsely accused of attempting to kidnap her children at a local Michaels store by this ‘influencer’,” Mitchell wrote.
“A big accusation! She clearly didn’t know who she was messing with in my cousin. Fine, I’m so glad you persevered!’
Mitchell added, “There definitely needs to be consequences for attention-seeking “influencers” dramatizing likes and views on social media.
“To prosecute Katie is now to convict Katie. Can you imagine this happening to YOU? It totally could. And it’s unreal.’