(KRON) — An Instagram “influencer mom” was sentenced to jail on Thursday for making viral videos about a fake attempted kidnapping.
Kathleen “Katie” Sorensen, 30, formerly of Sonoma, falsely claimed a Petaluma couple tried to kidnap her young children while she was shopping in an arts and crafts store. Her Instagram videos went viral in December 2020.
Sorensen was previously convicted by a jury of knowingly making a false report of a crime to police.
Sonoma County Judge Laura Passaglia presided over Thursday’s sentencing hearing. The judge ordered Sorensen to serve 90 days in jail, 60 of which could be served on a work release program.
Sorensen was immediately remanded into custody to begin serving her sentence.
The judge also placed Sorensen on 12 months of probation, during which time she was ordered to have no social media presence, pay fines, submit to warrantless search and seizure of electronic devices, and complete an implicit bias training class.
The couple accused by Sorensen was Latino. They were shopping for Christmas decorations inside a Michaels store on December 7, 2020 when Sorensen, who is white, saw them.
After purchasing a few items, Sorensen returned to her car, loaded her two young children into the car, and left the Michael’s parking lot.
A few minutes later, Sorensen called the Petaluma Police Department and reported that a couple had tried to kidnap her children. About a week later, Sorensen created and uploaded Instagram videos. In the videos, she went into great detail about a near abduction of her 1-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son.
Sorensen told her social media followers that she was trying to raise “awareness” for protecting children.
“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. I heard them talking about the features of my children. I was totally paralyzed with fear.”
The videos went viral on social media with millions of views.
“There were significant additional details that were included in her Instagram video that had not been disclosed to the Petaluma Police Department,” prosecutors wrote.
Petaluma Police Department officers followed up with Sorensen to investigate holes in her story. During that interview, Sorensen identified a Petaluma couple from the Michaels store’s surveillance video as being the perpetrators.
Sadie Martinez, one of the two people falsely accused, told the Press Democrat, “I couldn’t believe it. It’s like we’re literally guilty of being brown while shopping.”
At trial, a jury sided with prosecutors who proved Sorensen’s report was false, and was “resoundingly contradicted” by the store’s surveillance video, prosecutors said.
Sorensen was facing a maximum sentence of six months in jail before the judge handed down the 90-day sentence.
District Attorney Carla Rodriguez said, “Ms. Sorensen has been held accountable for her crime and we believe the judge handed down a fair sentence. 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.”
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Jail inmate records show the “influencer mom” was booked into Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility in Santa Rosa at 12:48 p.m. Thursday.