A California woman and Instagram influencer who reported and posted online about an attempted kidnapping of her young children in 2020 has been convicted of making a false report of a crime, prosecutors said.
A jury convicted the woman, Katie Sorensen, 31, formerly of Sonoma, Calif., of one count of making a false report of a crime, a misdemeanor. She was taken into custody, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement on Thursday.
Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said that the verdict would “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.”
On Dec. 7, 2020, Ms. Sorensen went to a Michaels craft store in Petaluma, Calif., with her two young children, prosecutors said. Petaluma is about 40 miles north of San Francisco.
After buying some items, prosecutors said that she returned to her car, loaded her children into the car and left the Michaels 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 made and published a video on Instagram in which she sat in her vehicle and described “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 going on a quick errand with her 4-year-old son and 1-year-old daughter, and being followed by a couple in the store, who made comments about the children and tried to kidnap them.
The video garnered over four million views, according to court records. Ms. Sorensen also went on a local news program to repeat her account, drawing wider attention.
When officers from the Petaluma Police Department followed up with Ms. Sorensen, she identified a couple from a surveillance video at the Michaels store as the kidnappers.
“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,” prosecutors said.
The couple, who also live in Petaluma and said they were 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, related to statements she made to a police dispatcher and a police officer on Dec. 7, but convicted her for statements made in the third interview, a week later with a detective.
In a statement on Friday about Ms. Sorensen’s conviction, her lawyer Charles D. Dresow said he was disappointed with the conviction and “will evaluate our options moving forward.”
In court this week, the prosecution described Ms. Sorensen as a would-be social media influencer who sought to boost her Instagram following and raise money, according to The Press Democrat, which covered the trial.
The couple that Ms. Sorensen had accused of the kidnapping — Sadie Vega-Martinez and her husband, Eddie Martinez — did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on Friday. Ms. Vega-Martinez told Elle magazine that she was satisfied with the verdict and that she believed “justice was served.”
She added: “I feel like it’s a step in the right direction for my family. I’m grateful for the support.”
Ms. Rodriguez, the district attorney, said Ms. Sorensen’s case “is also important in that it illustrates the importance of using social media responsibly.”
Ms. Sorensen’s bail was set at $100,000. A date for her sentencing has not been set.
She faces a maximum sentence of six months in jail.