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District Attorney Katayoun M. Copeland speaks about charges against Nik Tzima Hatziefstathiou, also known as “Nik the Hat,” 25 who is accused of doctoring a court officer's email to create a false news story at a press conference Wednesday.

When YC News broke the story May 25 that a Delaware County employee allegedly sent out a racist email in 2015, some local Democratic politicians held a press conference denouncing the email – if true – and calling for an independent investigation into its source.

Now that the source of the email is facing criminal charges for basically making up the story, Republican officials are firing back. 

“Some elected officials and politicians jumped on the bandwagon, knowing these claims may be fake, knowing these claims may be false,” said District Attorney Katayoun Copeland during a Wednesday press conference. “They were willing to believe the very worst about people without a shred of evidence. The fact that they then stood on the County Courthouse steps criticizing our innocent county employees is a testament to sometimes, apparently, how little the truth matters.”

After the online story was published, a slew of Democratic officials held a press conference on the courthouse steps demanding an independent investigation, all while admitting they could not be sure if the complaint was legitimate.

“I and my elected colleagues know – more than anyone else may know – that you cannot always believe stuff published on the internet,” said state Rep. Margo Davidson, D-164 of Upper Darby, during the press conference. “Nonetheless, the accusations are disturbing and the ramifications are dire. They’re dire enough that they would affect tens of thousands of people, and we must be hyper-vigilant to make sure it is not true in Delaware County.”

State Sen. Anthony Williams, D-8, of Philadelphia, Democratic District Attorney candidate Jack Stollsteimer and others joined Davidson that day on the steps of the County Courthouse in Media.

“Many of us were startled by the public revelation, but I will also tell you the broad array of us standing here today and many others were not shocked, which I think, frankly, is very disconcerting,” Williams said in calling for an independent investigation into the email’s source.

Stollsteimer, who faces Republican incumbent Katayoun Copeland in November’s General Election, said it was important to determine whether the alleged email is factual or if someone was attempting to sew disunity in the community.

Stollsteimer said a recent Pew Research Center survey found 87 percent of African-American adults nationally believe the criminal justice system is biased against people of color, while 61 percent of white respondents agreed with that assessment.

“When we have an overwhelming majority of adults in this country who believe that our criminal justice system is biased against one group of people simply because of the color of their skin, we have a problem in this society and we have to start addressing it,” he said. “And the conversation is uncomfortable, but it has to start, and it has to start today.”

With charges brought against YC News Editor in Chief Nikolaos Tzima Hatziefstathiou for allegedly doctoring the email, however, Republican officials were quick to condemn the Democrats.

“Each and every one of them owes a personal apology to the men and women who work hard here every day,” said Republican County Council Chairman John McBlain. “This appeared to be a coordinated effort that this supposed news story came out and immediately we started receiving inquiries from elected officials in Harrisburg, and then there was a press conference on the front steps of the courthouse, all of which leads me to believe there was some sort of collusion with this guy and it really just disgusts me.”

“I think it was reckless for Jack (Stollsteimer) to be out front in the courthouse,” said County Republican Party Chair Tom McGarrigle. “He wants to be D.A., but he’s going to be the D.A. that’s the judge and jury and everything? He knew the guy was a sketchy reporter and what he did was very reckless for pure political gain. He insulted over 3,000 employees who work in that courthouse.”

When contacted for comment Wednesday, Stollsteimer reiterated his comments at the June 5 press conference and added that he was relieved to see charges filed in the case.

Williams also said Wednesday that it was “sad” that anyone would marginalize what occurred at the press conference by reducing it to mere politics.

“That press conference wasn’t created simply because of politics,” he said. “It was created because of a concern.”

Williams said he reached out to the district attorney’s office prior to the press conference because of his own concerns and those raised by his constituents, but did not remember getting a reply.

“They could have easily reached out to any of us and said, ‘We’re concerned about this, come in and we’ll talk about what’s going on,’” he said.

“We said at the beginning of the press conference that he was not credible,” said Davidson. “However, with all the things that are going on in the news regarding inappropriate and racist posts by law enforcement, it still needed to be investigated to make sure it was not true.”

Davidson noted YC News frequently targeted her with erroneous and defamatory news stories in the past, which she claims to have raised with Republican officials with no action being taken. She described Hatziefstathiou as a “Republican operative” and said those same people she spoke with were complicit in spreading rumors about her printed by YC News.

“It just took him accusing them instead of me for them to take action,” said Davidson. “I feel totally vindicated that he has finally been charged by the Republican regime in Delaware County with being a fraud.”

Davidson said she has no regrets “whatsoever” about the press conference.

“It needed to be investigated,” she said. “What came of it is a known liar has been charged for his lies and I feel very good about that.”

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