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Katie Sorensen, the Instagram influencer charged with lying to police, pleads not guilty

The Instagram influencer at the center of a viral controversy surrounding accusations she leveled against a Petaluma Latino couple has pleaded not guilty to charges of giving false information to police, marking the latest development in a case that has captured international attention.

Sonoma mom Katie Sorensen, 28, entered her not guilty plea last week in Sonoma County Superior Court after the court rejected a motion to dismiss the case against her entirely. Her next scheduled appearance is a settlement conference set for Aug. 30, Assistant District Attorney Bill Brockley confirmed Wednesday.

Sorensen faces possible jail time over three misdemeanor charges revolving around her December 2020 allegations that Petaluma parents Eddie and Sadie Martinez had tried to kidnap her children at a local Michaels craft store.

Brockley said officials with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office were evaluating whether to offer a plea agreement.

Sadie Martinez, who has long sought legal consequences for Sorensen for her role in thrusting Martinez’s family into an uncomfortable spotlight, said she wasn’t surprised that Sorensen pleaded not guilty.

“I assumed she was gonna plead not guilty, but deep down inside, it’s just disappointing because she’s sticking to her lie, and now she’s playing the victim,” Martinez said.

At her last appearance, in late May, Sorensen asked the court for a demurrer, sometimes called a motion to dismiss, asserting that even if the allegations she faces are true, they are insufficient to establish a valid cause of action.

“In layman’s terms, they’re saying, ‘If all the facts are true, then these facts are insufficient,” Brockley told the Argus-Courier in May.

But that request was rejected July 1, officials with the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office confirmed Friday morning.

A phone message with Sorensen’s attorney, San Francisco-based criminal defense attorney Gail Shifman, was not immediately returned.

Shifman is a white collar criminal defense specialist who also touts her success in winning acquittals or reduced sentences for clients accused of sexual and gender-based harassment, domestic violence and rape and other serious crimes.

Sorensen’s mom launched a fundraising campaign on the popular fundraising platform Go Fund Me, seeking to bolster her daughter’s defense with a goal of raising $50,000.

The campaign has reached just $2,250 in donations, mostly from anonymous donors. There have been no donations since late May.

The District Attorney’s Office’s April 29 decision to charge Sorensen came nearly four months after she accused Eddie and Sadie Martinez of attempting to kidnap her two children Dec. 7 at a local Michaels craft store. Sorensen would later document the allegations, now widely viewed as a case of racial profiling, in two Instagram videos that garnered 4.5 million views and set off a firestorm of media attention while funneling tens of thousands of new followers to Sorensen’s Instagram account.

In the days following the high-profile accusations, Petaluma police announced Sorensen’s claims were without merit and cleared the couple of any wrongdoing. But the episode left the Martinez family reeling, as they’ve been forced to grapple with accusations that launched them into the public eye. Sadie Martinez has turned to activism, becoming more vocal on social media, participating in more demonstrations and speaking up at community events.

She started a #ProsecuteKatie movement on social media, too, replete with T-shirts bearing the slogan.

Appointed to Petaluma’s citizen-led advisory committee on policing and race relations, Sadie Martinez even debuted her version of San Francisco’s Caren Act, which made racially motivated 911 calls a crime.

Although she said she’s not sure why Sorensen continues to fight the misdemeanor charges, Sadie Martinez said she’s happy for any exposure Sorensen gets in the case, particularly after her own family was so publicly targeted.

“I would have thought she would have wanted to move on by now. I know I sure want to,” she said.

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