Cheer Mom in 'Deepfake' Scandal Tells Her Side

Raffaella Spone never actually faked anything, though that part of the story wasn't widely told
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 2, 2024 4:10 PM CDT
Cheer Mom Accused of Deepfakes Tells Her Side
Stock photo.   (Getty Images / mhodges)

The story was so sensational, it inspired a Lifetime television movie called Deadly Cheer Mom—but what was the truth behind the sordid tabloid tales? Raffaella Spone has come forward for the first time to tell her side of the story to the Guardian, and she insists almost none of what we all heard and read about her was true. Spone is the Pennsylvania mom, now 50, who in 2020 was accused of sending deepfake videos of girls on her then-teenage daughter's cheerleading squad to the girls' parents and coaches, in what authorities initially described as an attempt to get the cheerleaders kicked off the Victory Vipers team. The truth? As Jenny Kleeman puts it in her extensive piece, "nothing was fake after all." In the end, Spone was convicted of misdemeanor harassment, for sending five anonymous text messages warning about what the girls were posting on social media.

However, the allegations that she'd created deepfakes were dropped—a development in the story that got much, much less attention than her original arrest, when the local district attorney had taken the opportunity to make a lot of attention-grabbing public warnings about the technology Spone supposedly used to create incriminating photos and videos of the cheerleaders. Spone's lawyer suggests that Spone sent copies of photos and videos the girls had posted to social media—showing themselves partying and vaping—so their parents and coaches would know what was going on, and that the girl at the center of the whole scandal either panicked and cried deepfake so she wouldn't get in trouble—or perhaps even came up with the elaborate lie alongside her parents. Either way, authorities never actually had any proof the videos were faked. (Read the full piece at the Guardian.)

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