A 50-year-old Chalfont woman was ordered Friday, May 14, 2021 to face trial for harassing three teens on her daughter’s cheerleading squad.
Raffaela Spone was charged in early March following an investigation by the Hilltown Township Police Department with three counts each of cyber harassment of a child and harassment, both misdemeanors of the third degree.
Following a preliminary hearing on Friday, Magisterial District Judge Regina Armitage found enough evidence was presented to send all charges to the Court of Common Pleas.
The evidence presented included a photograph of a minor victim manipulated in a way to make her falsely appear to be unclothed in a public place. Investigators say they can track messages sent to or about the three minor victims back to Spone’s home and, in some cases, her cellular telephone itself.
While investigators originally believed at least one video showed evidence of the use of so-called Deep Fake face replacement technology, police are at this point unable to confirm the video evidence was falsified.
The police investigation, with the assistance of the Bucks County Detectives, is ongoing.
“Harassment is a crime. It is illegal for an adult to harass a child” District Attorney Matt Weintraub said. “Pennsylvania law does not permit an adult to repeatedly and anonymously annoy, alarm or harass someone.”
“While the original assessment that some of the evidence was created by media manipulation may not end up being accurate, a neutral finder of fact will ultimately have the opportunity to determine if the evidence in this case shows Ms. Spone sent photos, videos and texts designed to harass three innocent children. Judge Armitage’s decision shows she was satisfied the Commonwealth’s evidence met the necessary initial burden.”
The investigation began in July after the mother of one of the victim’s reported to Hilltown Township Police that she received text messages/phone calls from blocked or unknown numbers telling her “you should kill yourself.” She also reported that photos were taken from her daughter’s social media and edited.
Hilltown Township police met with the parents of two additional victims in December. Those parents said they received harassing text messages in August about their daughters. Those messages included pictures of the girls labeled with cruel captions.
Police used a series of search warrants to determine information about the phone numbers the messages were sent from, leading them to the IP address that traced back to Spone.
At the time, all three victims cheered for the Victory Vipers in Doylestown, as did Spone’s daughter.
District Attorney Weintraub said, “Though not legally required to do so until after Ms. Spone’s formal arraignment, we’ve made the digital forensic evidence available now for the defendant’s expert to review.”
“We remain committed to the fairness and integrity of the criminal process, which includes protecting both the rights of the victims and those of the accused.” This case is being investigated by Hilltown Township Police Department and Bucks County Detectives and is assigned for prosecution to Assistant District Attorney Julia K. Wilkins.