(KRON) – An Instagram influencer was found guilty by a jury in California after she made a viral video about a fake kidnapping, prosecutors said.
Kathleen “Katie” Sorensen, 31, went viral in 2020 when she told her Instagram followers that two strangers tried to kidnap her children while she was shopping in Petaluma, in Sonoma County.
The jury convicted Sorensen on one count of knowingly making a false report of a crime. After the verdict was reached, Judge Laura Passaglia remanded the “influencer” into custody and set bail at $100,000.
Sorensen is now facing a maximum sentence of six months in jail.
“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,” Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said. “The case is also important in that it illustrates the importance of using social media responsibly.”
The case stems from a video Sorensen shot in December 2020, aiming to tell a frightening story about shopping in a Michael’s craft store with her 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.
“My children were the targets of attempted kidnap,” Sorensen said in one video uploaded to her account, @motherhoodessentials. “It happened. I want to share that story with you in an effort to raise awareness as to what signs to look for.”
She also said in the video that, while shopping, she overheard the “kidnappers” discussing her children’s features and “was totally paralyzed with fear.”
Two of Sorensen’s Instagram videos racked up more than 4 million views, according to People magazine. She also went to the Petaluma Police Department to report the incident, prosecutors said.
Police obtained video from the store’s surveillance cameras, which was then shown to Sorensen. She pointed out a couple and claimed that they were the perpetrators, prosecutors said.
“She was definitive that the couple approached her children’s stroller and that the male reached for it; she stated she would testify to that fact, and that she wanted the couple prosecuted,” the Petaluma Police Department wrote.
The accused Latino couple said they were shopping for Christmas decorations, the Press Democrat reported. Petaluma police investigated the couple and found no evidence of wrongdoing, according to PPD.
Following the jury’s guilty verdict last week, the District Attorney’s Office wrote a summary of the events they believe transpired on Dec. 7, 2020, inside the Michael’s location in Petaluma.
“Ms. Sorensen went to the Michael’s craft store with her two young children. After purchasing a few items, Ms. Sorensen returned to her car, loaded her children into the car, and left the Michael’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,” the DA’s Office wrote.
“About a week later, Ms. Sorensen made and published an Instagram video wherein she went into great detail about the near abduction of her young children, adding significant details that had not been disclosed to the Petaluma Police Department,” the DA’s Office continued. “The Instagram video went viral. Ms. Sorensen’s report was determined to be false and was resoundingly contradicted by the accused couple, as well as store video that was obtained.”
Sorensen later moved out of Sonoma County, deleted her viral videos, and switched her @motherhoodessentials account to a private setting. She still has nearly 60,000 followers.
Sorensen posted bail and remains out of custody, jail inmate records show. A date for her sentencing hearing has not been set.