A Delaware County, Pennsylvania, jury found journalist Nik Hatziefstathiou guilty of all charges, marking the end of a trial wrought with scandals, questions about press freedoms, and a police officer who previously provided the defendant with a stolen taser that led to the cop’s prosecution and ouster from the force.
The 12-member jury deliberated for less than three hours before returning guilty verdicts on two counts of forgery and identity theft, three counts of unsworn falsifications to authorities, and one count of tampering with public records or information.
Known as “Nik the Hat,” Hatziefstathiou recently stepped down from his editor-in-chief role at Your Content News. He’s also the CEO of Original Media Group Corp.
Hatziefstathiou faces sentencing in November.
In 2019, Hatziefstathiou claimed that a high-ranking Delaware County Adult & Parole Supervisor had sent racist emails to others in a headline news story.
“Good morning,” the supervisor purportedly wrote in an email that found its way splashed across the top of Hatziefstathiou’s Your Content News website.
“You do not have to worry about job security … ROFL … so long as there’s a nigger in our county, you will have a full slate.”
The email continues, “Make sure he registers as a [redacted] before applying. They’re extremely strict about that. Can’t have a bunch of [gang-bang] loving [redacted] in here … ha.”
Hatziefstathiou cited more than two dozen county officials in a report that said all applicants in Delaware County must register as a Republican for hiring considerations.
Also, he reported that the Delaware County Department of Adult Probation & Parole employs no African Americans, and 1 percent of the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office are Black.
The 2019 story caused an uproar throughout Pennsylvania.
Because of the article, state legislators and Black activists led protests outside the Delaware County District Attorney’s Office.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania requested Hatziefstathiou turn over the emails.
Prosecutors said Hatziefstathiou made up the story and used fake identities to carry out the ruse.
Detective Edmond Pisani testified that officials “jumped into high gear” investigating the email but could not find it on county servers.
The investigation eventually led to Hatziefstathiou, whose home authorities searched.
The detective said authorities had obtained a search warrant and recovered a MacBook and iPhone from Hatziefstathiou’s vehicle.
Pisani told jurors he remembered Hatziefstathiou from a 2015 investigation where the journalist pleaded guilty to harassing neighbors after using an escort service to send prostitutes to their homes and then calling the police on them.
Hatziefstathiou classified the stunts as simple pranks.
Pisani testified that it was Hatziefstathiou who had used the same language in the purported email, particularly where it states, “I like to watch niggers get locked up, and more niggers are going to get in trouble.”
Earlier in the investigation, authorities arrested Police Officer Donald Jackson, who allegedly provided Hatziefstathiou with a taser.
According to police statements, Hatziefstathiou sent a text to Jackson with the following request: “Know anyone I can borrow a taser from? I’m going to be in some bad areas while I’m down there this weekend.”
Jackson’s reply? “I have one. You can’t tell anyone where you got it, though.”
The pair allegedly met, and Jackson handed Hatziefstathiou the weapon officials said belonged to a police captain.
Prosecutors also told jurors that Hatziefstathiou used phony email accounts to pose as New York Times reporter Liam Stack and ABC News producer Stephanie Wash.
One official, Chelsey Price, testified that she received an email from Your Content News in April 2019, seeking a response to a feature story about a conspiracy between several Delaware County agencies.
Price said she then received emails allegedly from Wash and Stack, both claiming that their news outlets had recordings of a local detective promising to “harass the piss out of Hatziefstathiou legally.”
According to Pisani, authorities traced those emails to Hatziefstathiou’s address and were created and accessed using his iPhone.
Wash and Stack also testified that they did not know about the emails.
Hatziefstathiou told NNPA Newswire in a text message that he maintains his innocence.
“We will appeal,” Hatziefstathiou insisted.
“It was quite the fight, and if my freedom is the price to ensure a free press and confidential sources, I must pay that price.”
He called his trial unfair and said county officials had placed crime scene tape around the courtroom and stationed armed Marshall’s to prevent visitors.
“They don’t want the public or the media in,” Hatziefstathiou wrote.
He also claimed that more than 3,000 racist emails emanated from county officials, many using the n-word.
“It’s a sad day for the First Amendment and questioning the government,” Hatziefstathiou told NNPA Newswire. He said the county would move to seize and shutter Your Content News.
“Racism is alive and flourishing,” Hatziefstathiou asserted. “They killed the messenger and sent a grave message to others.”