Bucks County mother found guilty of harassing her daughter’s cheerleading teammates

Bucks County mother found guilty of harassing her daughter's cheerleading teammates

A Bucks County mom has been convicted of using unlisted phone numbers to harass three girls from her daughter’s cheerleading squad.

Raffaela Spone, 51, of Chalfont, was found guilty by a Bucks County jury Friday on three counts of cyber-harassment that occurred between July and August 2020. Spone could face up to one year in prison and a $2,500 fine, according to the Bucks. County Courier Times.

Spone was arrested and charged last March after she was accused of editing videos and images, commonly known as deepfakes, to harass three underage girls from her daughter’s Victory Vipers cheerleading team.

The woman allegedly created deepfakes that put the teens in compromising positions that never happened. Prosecutors said at the time it was part of an effort to get the three girls into trouble.

The harassment first came to the attention of police when the mother of one of the girls reported that her daughter was receiving text messages and phone calls from a blocked phone number.

Some of the lyrics contained photos taken from the girl’s social media accounts and edited to make her appear naked in a public place, or as if she had been drinking alcohol and vaping. Other posts include screenshots of one of the girls saying she was depressed.

In an alleged deepfake video — modified by software to make one person look like another — the same girl was depicted as vaping. That video was sent to Doylestown cheerleading coaches in an attempt to get the girl off the team.

In one of the phone calls the girl received, she was told, “You must commit suicide.”

Two other parents turned themselves in to police in December 2020 to report that their daughters had been the target of similar phone calls and texts, including lecherous images that put them in situations that never happened. Some images contain cruel captions.

A police search of Spone’s phone found the images sent in the messages stored on her mobile device.

Prosecutors said Spone used several anonymous phone numbers to contact the girls’ mothers and the cheerleading coaches. Spone hid her phone numbers using an app called Pinger, prosecutors said.

Investigators were able to trace the cell phone’s activity to Spone’s home in Chalfont and the disguised phone numbers to her IP address.

Spone was not happy with what the three girls shared on social media and identified herself as a concerned parent, police said.

However, investigators said last May after a preliminary hearing that there was no clear evidence to show that Spone created deepfake videos and photos to ruin the reputation of the three girls.

Magisterial District Judge Regina Armitage allowed the trial to continue in Bucks County’s joint pleadings. Spone remained accused of making inappropriate phone calls and sending hostile text messages about the three girls from incognito phone numbers.

The three girls and their mothers testified at the trial that they were scared after receiving the messages because they did not know who sent them. Spone never identified himself when asked whose lyrics belonged, prosecutors said.

Spone did not testify at the trial. Her attorney, Robert Birch, argued that prosecutors could not prove that his client had sent the messages. He also said the messages were sent by someone who was concerned about the three girls.

Spone did not act like a concerned mother, prosecutors said, because she initially went to the cheerleading coaches instead of the parents. Spone knew the mothers of all three girls and could have reached them individually through her own number, the researchers said.

Prosecutors also said the messages did not have to be sent directly to the girls to be considered harassment.

Spone is now out on bail and awaiting a sentencing date.

Spone’s case, which has attracted international attention, is the subject of a new fictional TV series called “Deadly Cheer Mom” ​​that debuted on the streaming service Tubi on Friday.

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