A Broomall man who worked as an international tabloid journalist was convicted this week of forgery, identity theft, and tampering with public records after state prosecutors said he “wielded electronic devices as weapons” by creating a racist email he claimed came from a Delaware County official.
Nikolaos Hatziefstathiou, 28, was found guilty by a jury Thursday after a four-day trial in Media. In addition to the conviction for creating the fake email, jurors convicted him of impersonating Liam Stack, a reporter for the New York Times, and ABC News correspondent Stephanie Walsh in an attempt to interest county prosecutors in his claims of harassment by a local police officer.
Hatziefstathiou, known as “Nik the Hat,” published a story on his website, YC News, in 2019, saying a confidential source forwarded him an email from a supervisor in Delaware County’s adult probation and parole department. The email, reproduced by Hatziefstathiou in his article, used the n-word and mocked the county’s Black residents.
Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula, the lead prosecutor on the case, said Hatziefstathiou’s actions were part of a “pathetic effort to bolster his own profile.”
“He tried to drum up attention for himself by creating the false Stephanie Walsh and Liam Stack emails, and when that failed, he turned his attention to a story that would generate publicity: Racism in high levels of county government,” Sekula said. “And it worked.”
Hatziefstathiou’s attorney, Norm Pattis, pushed back against that assertion. He described his client as “America’s most reliable ‘fake news’ reporter,” a sardonic mockery of the label given to him by prosecutors during his arrest.
Everything Hatziefstathiou did, Pattis said, was legitimate, as was the probation department email he published. The entire prosecution, he said, was an attempt by Delaware County to get revenge on a reporter who “asks inconvenient questions to people in power.”
“Information comes to reporters from sources who do not want to be disclosed, and reporters protect the identity of those sources, and seek to confirm or corroborate what those sources have told them,” Pattis said. “That is what Nik Hatziefstathiou did in this case.”
The YC News article gained attention quickly, and prompted a news conference by State Rep. Margo Davidson, a Delaware County Democrat, and other local officials.
In investigating the email, county officials began to suspect it was fake — they found no record of it on the county’s email servers.
Investigators obtained search warrants for Hatziefstathiou’s iPhone and Macbook, and discovered that he had created the email himself, using a legitimate email from his own probation supervisor as a template. During the trial, Sekula had forensic experts recreate the step-by-step process Hatziefstathiou took to make the email by scanning the email he had received and using photo-editing software to insert a racist message.
Detectives found evidence that Hatziefstathiou had emailed then-District Attorney Katayoun Copeland from accounts he created in the names of Stack and Walsh. In the messages, Hatziefstathiou, posing as the reporters, pressed Copeland for information about alleged harassment against him by a detective in Marple Township.
Pattis conceded that Hatziefstathiou sent those emails, but said he did so only because Copeland and her office had ignored his requests to investigate the harassment.
“His purpose was to engage law enforcement. His purpose was to get them to conduct an investigation,” Pattis said. “His purpose was to ask for help, help he had been denied.”
Sekula said, in truth, Hatziefstathiou’s aim was much simpler.
“This case boils down to one thing, one person: Nik,” she said. “His ego, his need for attention, and his complete disregard for others.”
Hatziefstathiou will be sentenced by Delaware County Judge John P. Capuzzi, Sr. in November.
Source : https://www.inquirer.com/news/hatziefstathiou-nikolas-nik-the-hat-forgery-guilty-20211022.html672