An Instagram “mom influencer” in California who falsely claimed a Hispanic couple were trying to kidnap her children has been sentenced to 90 days in jail for making a false report, according to prosecutors.
Katie Sorensen, 30, was convicted in April of a misdemeanour for making a false report, according to the New York Times.
District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said 60 of the 90 days could be served as part of a work-release program.
In addition to jail time, Sorensen was sentenced to 12 months of informal probation during which she is prohibited from appearing on social media. She will also be required to complete a four-hour implicit bias training program as well as paying various fees and fines.
The incident that led to Sorensen’s conviction began on 7 December, 2020, when the Instagrammer visited a Michaels craft store in Petaluma, California, around 40 miles north of San Francisco. She went to the store with her four-year-old son and one-year-old daughter, according to prosecutors.
She shopped, left the store, returned to her car, and loaded up her children. Then, she called the police.
“A few minutes later Ms Sorensen called the Petaluma Police Department and reported that a couple had tried to kidnap her children,” prosecutors said.
A week after the report, Sorensen published an Instagram video in which she described the “near abduction of her young children,” according to prosecutors.
They said she included “significant details” in the video that she had not given to the Petaluma Police Department.
She says in the now-deleted video that she wanted to raise awareness and “just encourage parents to be more aware of their surroundings”.
Sorensen also described being followed by a couple who she said made comments about kidnapping her children.
The video garnered more than four million views and was featured on local news programs.
Police eventually followed up with Sorensen who identified the couple she claimed were stalking her children from security footage obtained from the retailer.
The individuals she identified were Sadie Vega-Martinez and her husband, Eddie Martinez. Police tracked down the couple, and they “fully cooperated” with the investigation. The couple “denied the allegations,” according to the department.
Police ultimately determined the couple were innocent, and charged Sorensen with three misdemeanour counts of making a false report of a crime.
A jury acquitted the first two counts against her but convicted her on the third.
“Ms Sorensen has been held accountable for her crime, and we believe the judge handed down a fair sentence,” District Attorney Rodriguez said in a statement following the sentencing.
“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.”