Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou was sentenced Wednesday to 2 to 4 years in prison for forgery and identity theft

MEDIA COURTHOUSE – The former editor-in-chief of the online news site Your Content was sentenced to two to four years in state prison on Wednesday for creating a fake racist email which he attributed to a Delaware County adult probation and parole supervisor in a demystified 2019. story.

MEDIANEWS FILE OF THE PHOTO GROUP Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou

Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as ‘Nik the Hat’, 28, of the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall, was convicted last month on two counts each of forgery and identity theft, three counts of forgery without oath to authorities; and one count of falsifying public documents or information following a jury trial before Common Pleas Judge John Capuzzi. A second trial for alleged possession of a Taser device handed to him by Chester Police Officer Donald Jackson is scheduled for Jan. 18. Jackson is to be tried on December 13.

The case against Hatziefstathiou began on May 25, 2019, when YC News published an article with an image of an alleged 2015 email containing racist language. Parts of the email, such as copied email addresses, had been “redacted,” but the image still included a signature line for probation and parole supervisor Jeff Roney.

“Hello,” the email begins, “you don’t have to worry about job security… ROFL… as long as there’s a—- in our county, you’ll have a complete list. Just make sure they register as (redacted) before you apply, they’re extremely strict about it. I can’t have a bunch of (redacted) loving gangbangs here… ha. (sic) ”

The publication of the bogus email sparked an uproar in local government and sparked a press conference on the steps of the county courthouse by elected officials demanding an investigation.

The accompanying story claimed that the email was revealed as part of a state right-to-know law request to inspect electronic communications between all agencies responsible for Delaware County law enforcement, then later indicated that the information was from a “topical advice” that the email had been sent “between several county officials and a current department supervisor, where they accidentally copied a carbon intern ”.

Delaware County detectives Edmond Pisani and Christopher Tankelewicz testified that a search of the county’s servers revealed that such an email was never sent, however, and a MacBook and iPhone found in Hatziefstathiou’s vehicle as part of a search warrant served in June 2019 contained evidence of him. creating the document in question shortly before it is put online.

During their search of Hatziefstathiou’s home, Pisani said investigators came across a printout of a 2016 email from Roney used as a template. Hatziefstathiou was then on probation for harassing his neighbors by repeatedly sending prostitutes to their doors through an escort service and then calling the police on them.

Pisani said Hatziefstathiou had used the same racist language in that previous case, saying: “I like watching n – s get locked up and other n – s are going to get in trouble.”

Tankelewicz said he found Roney’s original 2016 email – describing Hatziefstathiou as “unstable” and apparently unable to comply with the terms of his probation – had been scanned into the phone using a application and had been placed in Dropbox. The document viewed on the MacBook and downloaded and then manipulated using photo editing websites to erase the original text and replace it with the racist remarks.

Hatziefstathiou also used fake email accounts to impersonate New York Times reporter Liam Stack and ABC producer Stephanie Wash in emails to the district attorney’s public relations office in April 2019.

Stack and Wash testified that they did not send any of those emails and Wash said in a victim impact statement read on file by Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula on Wednesday that Hatziefstathiou exchanged on a name she spent 14 years building up being trustworthy, and costing him time and money to prepare for trial.

Defense attorney Norm Pattis told Capuzzi on Wednesday his client would appeal and have no plans to revisit the case, but maintained Hatziefstathiou was a journalist and was protecting a source that allowed him to see the email and copy it to his notebook. Although Hatziefstathiou used the email template, Pattis said, he did so in a way he didn’t think anyone would reasonably conclude that Roney was the author.

Sekula said this claim was “absolutely ridiculous” given the wealth of evidence Delaware County investigators compiled showing Hatziefstathiou created the email on his computer on the day the story was published, as well. than texts with other journalists in which Hatziefstathiou allegedly said they should investigate the whole of adult probation and parole – starting with Roney.

Sekula added that even after investigators got the name of the alleged sender, they still could not find a trace of such an email sent and the people who allegedly copied the email have all denied ever having seen it.

“No county employee sent that email, period,” she said. “It is a complete and total fabrication.”

Sekula said that even now Hatziefstathiou continues to “quadruple” on the idea that he is right although he has not provided any credible evidence to support his claim and that he does not care. consequences of his actions.

“Such conduct undermines the county’s confidence in the justice system, in the media, and undermines the ability to root out racism where it really exists,” she said.

Acting Director of Adult Probation and Parole Danielle Hibberd said the story was an unfair description of the men and women who work in this department, many of whom were present for the sentencing, and tried to make an already difficult job even more difficult by sowing mistrust.

“Shame on you for what you have done,” she said. “Shame on you for calling yourself a journalist, when a real journalist has the responsibility of reporting facts and truths.”

Roney also issued a victim impact statement and said he believed he helped Hatziefstathiou mature while on probation. He said Hatziefstathiou had actually thanked him and there should be more people like him in the justice system.

“It popped up – the keyword ‘popped up’ – to change,” Roney said.

But when he saw the email, Roney said it was mind-boggling to be associated with racism after working 14 years to build a reputation as a trustworthy and fair person, regardless of race or gender. .

“I am not a racist,” he said. “Adult probation and parole staff are not racist. In fact, your racist statements from your previous conviction have proven that you are the only racist person in this courtroom right now.

Roney said there had been discussions around the office and courthouse over the revealing signature line on the fake email and he was questioned by detectives. He didn’t know how his family would take him, if he would lose his job or if his safety was in danger, he said.

Roney said he still doesn’t know why Hatziefstathiou chose him, but sees him as a con artist interested only in his own agenda. Roney added that he believed Hatziefstathiou deserved a prison sentence, but that was secondary because his reputation as a journalist was forever tarnished.

“The most important thing that comes to me from all this ordeal is that as a result of your conviction you have been proven to be a liar, a coward and labeled a bogus journalist with not a single ounce of credibility,” Roney mentioned. “I can stay here totally satisfied knowing that anything you write, post or report in the future will be ridiculed.”

Capuzzi said sentencing was usually the hardest part of his job, but Hatziefstathiou made it easy. He pointed to other instances of racism posted by the accused, including an incident in which he called 911 to incorrectly report that an officer had used the “n” word on a police radio.

“So the racism in this room is right there at this table,” Capuzzi said, pointing to Hatziefstathiou. “You tried to direct this racism from your heart to the probation service and to Mr. Roney in particular.”

Capuzzi said he was handing out an aggravated sentence because he found Hatziefstathiou’s conduct to be malicious, cold and designed to degrade Roney, his office and the county, which spent a lot of money and others. resources due to Hatziefstathiou’s actions.

The YC News website URL for the story is now listed as “HTTP 451 unavailable for legal reasons”, which is why this is a specific status code for a resource “which does not cannot be served for legal reasons, such as a government censored web page. “

The change came in the wake of Hatziefstathiou’s conviction, but a YC News note on the page still claims the email was sent by “a senior county jail and / or probation service official. for adults ”and refers to a November 2019 Philadelphia Inquirer article that found former Delaware County Jail Superintendent John Reilly used the“ n ”word to describe black prison officers.

The online publication refers to Hatziefstathiou as “America’s first indicted and convicted journalist while acting in connection with his job as an” international news correspondent. ” The memo claims that YC News used his email “as a template for the reproduction of the alleged racist email shown to Mr. Hatziefstathiou by unidentified sources.”

In addition to the prison term, Hatziefstathiou was ordered to serve three consecutive years of probation, pay the prosecution costs and have no direct or indirect contact with the probation office. He is not eligible for early release and Capuzzi has indicated that there will also be a restitution hearing in the future.

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