Former YC News editor on trial for racist email
MEDIA COURTHOUSE – The former editor of the online news site Your Content is on trial this week for allegedly creating a fake racist email attributed to a Delaware County adult probation and parole officer and himself posing as a journalist and producer for other news organizations.
Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat”, 28, of the 700 block of Cedar Grove Road in Broomall, is charged with two counts each of blacksmithing
ry and identity theft, three counts of forgery without oath to authorities and one count of falsifying public documents or information.
Hatziefstathiou is represented by defense lawyers Joseph Lesniak, Mark Much and Norm Pattis in the trial before Common Pleas Judge John Capuzzi. Deputy Attorney General Phillip McCarthy and Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula continue.
“This case is about three things: fake news, revenge and vanity,” McCarthy said in his opening statements. “You will learn that the accused wants to be seen as a legitimate mainstream journalist and you will also learn that he is looking for a particular story, but when he doesn’t find that news, he makes it up.”
The defense postponed its opening statement, but repeatedly objected to testimony identifying Hatziefstathiou as the user who created and sent the allegedly bogus emails, signaling at least part of the defense strategy.
The case began on May 25, 2019, when YC News published an article with an image of an alleged 2015 email that was allegedly sent “between several county officials and a current department supervisor, where they accidentally copied a carbon trainee ”.
“Hello,” the drafted 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 article claimed the email was revealed as part of a state right-to-know law request to inspect electronic communications between all law enforcement agencies of Delaware County.
But Delaware County Detective Edmond Pisani said Tuesday the county was unable to locate the email on its servers, indicating that it never actually existed.
Pisani said the county was “moving up a gear” by investigating the email, which ultimately led them to Hatziefstathiou’s home in Broomall. Investigators issued a search warrant there in June 2019 and recovered a MacBook and iPhone from Hatziefstathiou’s vehicle, he said.
Pisani said he knew Hatziefstathiou during a 2015 investigation in which he harassed his neighbors by repeatedly sending prostitutes to their doors through a now defunct escort service, then calling the police.
Pisani said Hatziefstathiou had used the same racist language in that previous case, saying: “I like watching n – s get locked up and more n – s are going to be in trouble.”
Hatziefstathiou pleaded guilty to harassment in the case and was sentenced to probation, Pisani said.
During their search of Hatziefstathiou’s home, Pisani said investigators came across a printout of an old email from probation and parole supervisor Jeff Roney, while Hatziefstathiou was on probation. This particular email described how Hatziefstathiou was “unstable” and appeared unable to comply with probation rules.
Pisani said in a probable cause affidavit that Roney has indicated that he will contact Hatziefstathiou’s attorneys via email and that Hatziefstathiou will be copied in the responses.
County Detective Christopher Tankelewicz also testified to a forensic report he wrote that detailed what he found on the iPhone and MacBook.
Tankelewicz said it discovered that Roney’s original email was scanned into the phone using an app and placed in Dropbox, which was then viewed on the computer and downloaded.
Tankelewicz presented a timeline of events of over 39 minutes in the afternoon of May 25, 2019, when the original email was reportedly changed from a static .pdf file to an easier-to-read .jpeg file. manipulate, then forged using photo editing websites to erase the original text. and replace it with racist remarks.
The user then searched for “black” on Google and used a series of screenshots to create black bars that obscured much of the sender and recipient information on the original email, but left the end of Roney’s email address indicating it was from a county account and his position as supervisor, Tankelewicz said.
During this period, Tankelewicz said the iPhone was in communication with Hatziefstathiou’s contacts and family members. Emails were also received and viewed, and sent from Hatziefstathiou’s email address at around the same time, Tankelewicz said, including one to county council at 6:13 p.m. serving as “last notice” for comments before the story breaks. The post was posted at 6:18 p.m., Tankelewicz said.
Pisani said he saw the story on the YC News site change over the next two days as its veracity was challenged. The word “allegedly” was added to a line regarding an email exchange between county officials and language indicating that the email was from a “topical advice” that YC News was unable to verify from. independently was also added, Pisani said. Pisani took screenshots of both versions and denied removing anything labeling the alleged email as “artwork.”
Hatziefstathiou is also accused of posing as New York Times reporter Liam Stack and ABC producer Stephanie Wash in emails to the district attorney’s public relations office in April 2019.
Former Acting Public Relations Manager Chelsey Price said she received an email from YC News National Office on April 22, 2019, requesting comment on a detailed article on a “decade-long conspiracy. Between several Delaware County agencies.
This was quickly followed by emails purportedly from Wash and Stack claiming there was an audio recording of Detective Marple berating Hatziefstathiou and promising to “legally harass him”.
Emails from “Wash” solicited comment and asked if the alleged harassment could be politically motivated due to Hatziefstathiou’s “links to the president”, while another allegedly sent to one of the former lawyers Hatziefstathiou’s defense, Chuck Peruto, said the story would air on all ABC sites. platforms “given Nik’s status in the industry”.
“Stack” meanwhile asked for information on criminal complaints filed against the Marple Police, according to Price, and said the New York Times would report that the DA had no protocol for reporting official misconduct and refused to comment.
Price said she became suspicious of the emails because many of them came from “outlook.com” addresses and the wording appeared to be wrong. She said Hatziefstathiou also tried to schedule a meeting with then-district attorney Katayoun Copeland over a report of findings and a petition for a grand jury investigation.
Pisani said he investigated the phone number provided in the “Wash” emails and discovered that it was owned by a company that sells internet phone numbers that can be used on data. The number was associated with Ad Hoc Labs’ “burner” app, which can make phones appear to be calling from a different number, Pisani said. Hatziefstathiou had used this same app while making jokes and the app was installed on his iPhone, Pisani said.
Pisani said he was able to obtain an Internet Protocol address used to log into the purportedly Wash and Stack email accounts, which were registered at Hatziefstathiou’s Broomall address under his sister’s name.
The two Outlook accounts were also created and accessed using the same Apple product, Pisani said: Hatziefstathiou’s iPhone. Tankelewicz also stated that the Outlook “Wash” and “Stack” addresses have permissions on Hatziefstathiou’s MacBook.
The real Wash and Stack testified that they did not send any of the emails and did not know about Hatziefstathiou or YC News until Pisani questioned them. Both said that the illegitimate use of their names was of concern.
The prosecution does not prosecute the charges of receiving stolen property relating to a Taser Hatziefstathiou pistol allegedly given by Chester’s police officer Donald Jackson. Jackson is still charged with one count of theft, however, and is scheduled for a status hearing in that case on Dec. 13 before Capuzzi.
Hatziefstathiou stepped down as editor at YC last month, but remains CEO and chairman of its publisher, Original Media Group Corporation, according to a statement. Anthony Loro, communications director of Original Media Group Corporation, said in a statement that the publication stood by its reporting.
“It is far too late for the person who launched this literal catch and kill campaign in the courthouse to reverse what they intentionally set in motion,” Loro said. “We know that our team, especially Mr. Hatziefstathiou, will be on the right side of history in this dark era in Delaware County.”
The trial is expected to continue today.