A Pennsylvania mom has been ordered to face trial for harassing three girls on her daughter's cheerleading squad, the Bucks County District Attorney's Office announced Friday.
Raffaela Spone, 50, of Chalfont, last March was charged with three counts each of cyber harassment of a child and harassment.
Following a preliminary hearing on Friday, Magisterial District Judge Regina Armitage found enough evidence presented to send all charges to the Court of Common Pleas, District Attorney Matt Weintraub's Office said.
Spone was accused of manipulating a photograph of a teen girl on the Victory Vipers in Doylestown to make it look as though the girl was naked in a public place, authorities said.
The investigation began in July after one of the victim's moms told Hilltown Township Police that she received text messages/phone calls from blocked or unknown numbers saying “you should kill yourself," Weintraub said.
She also said that photos were taken from her daughter's social media and edited, authorities said.
Hilltown Township police in December met with the parents of two additional victims who also said they received harassing texts in August about their daughters.
Those messages included pictures of the girls labeled with cruel captions, police said.
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, Weintraub said.
At the time, all three victims cheered for the Victory Vipers in Doylestown, as did Spone’s daughter.
Investigators tracked the messages back to Spone's home and, some cases, her cellphone itself, authorities said.
While investigators originally believed at least one video showed evidence of the use of so-called Deep Fake face replacement technology, police are unable to confirm the video evidence was falsified, Weintraub said.
“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," 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."
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.
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