Kathleen Sorensen, an Instagram influencer, reported the false crime to police in 2020 and proceeded to blast fabricated details to her social media followers and local TV news viewers.
Sorensen, 31, is in custody and could face up to 6 months in jail. She was charged in 2021 with three counts of providing false information to police.
Sonoma County District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said the jury’s guilty verdict will help exonerate the couple who were falsely accused of trying to kidnap two small children at a Michael’s craft store.
In court, prosecutors described Sorensen as an aspiring social media influencer who was seeking to expand her Instagram following and raise money, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported.
“The case is also important in that it illustrates the importance of using social media responsibly,” Rodriguez said in a press release.
Sorensen is formerly of Sonoma, California, located 45 miles north of San Francisco.
What did Kathleen Sorensen do?
While in her car with her two small children after shopping at a Michael’s craft store in Petaluma, California, on December 7, 2020, Sorensen called police and reported that a man and woman had tried to kidnap her kids.
About a week later, Sorensen posted videos on Instagram sharing details about the errand and claiming her kids were the “targets of attempted kidnap.” The video included many details she had not told Petaluma police, prosecutors said.
In the video, Sorensen said she wanted to “raise awareness as to what signs to look for, and to just encourage parents to be more aware of their surroundings and what is going on around them.”
The fabricated story in the video went viral, gaining more than four million views, The New York Times reported.
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Sorensen proceeded to do an interview with local news outlets including KTVU, an Oakland, California Fox affiliate, and gave even more fabricated details about the couple she falsely accused.
In the televised interview, Sorensen said the couple “didn’t necessarily look clean cut.” She also said a white van parked near her own car in the back of the parking lot and fabricated a story about the couple talking on the phone, describing her children’s physical features.
When police followed up with Sorensen after the TV interview, she identified a couple in store surveillance video as the kidnappers.
But the couple “resoundingly contradicted” the accusation, which was determined by police to be false, prosecutors said.
The store video itself also contradicted Sorensen’s claim, according to prosecutors.
Sorensen’s sentencing hearing is yet to be set, the Sonoma County District Attorney’s office said.
Latino couple says fabricated story was racist
The Petaluma couple Sorensen falsely accused later went on the record and identified themselves as Sadie and Eddie Martinez.
They said they were shopping for Christmas decorations at Michael’s the day Sorensen decided to call the police. “It’s like we’re literally guilty of being Brown while shopping,” Sadie Martinez told The Petaluma (California) Argus-Courier in December 2020.
In a statement to The New York Times on Friday about Sorensen’s conviction, her lawyer, Charles D. Dresow, said he was disappointed with the conviction and “will evaluate our options moving forward.”
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