June 22, 2024

It was the first week of August when a number of influences were taking place. The film “Sound Of Freedom” was in its fifth week in theaters, it had absorbed a flood of harshly negative media coverage, and it was enraging those same outlets by becoming a smash hit in theaters. Then came a deluge of reports about a serious criminal charge leveled at somebody attached to the production. 

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Headlines blared that a financier behind the film had been arrested for child kidnapping, which was the perfect story to finally destroy the prospects of this film that so many in the press declared to be a QAnon conspiracy fantasy. Except, to have a major player behind a child sex trafficking film found to be conducting that very behavior was in fact too perfect. The press, in their collective desire to destroy this film, could not pause to actually research the details before blaring their version of events.

Let’s look at what was being reported at the time. Fabian Marta, said to be anything from a primary funder of the film to a “major financier” was arrested for a child kidnapping charge. However, details began to emerge while these headlines were still warm which should both been easy to learn about and led to far less hysterical coverage. Looking at the police report, for starters showed he was charged with two counts of “accessory to kidnapping”. This indicates more of a tangential involvement in the alleged crime and should have been enough to inspire someone to look further, had any journalist been so curious.

You see the eagerness of the press to blare these headlines before having all the facts in the way Newsweek, one of the early outlets to hype the arrest, had to issue multiple corrections on its story. The details were that the children were with their mother, involved in a domestic dispute, and she was inside a dwelling owned by Marta. As the landlord he was unwilling (or later revealed, unable) to grant the police access to the dwelling, something he was not legally bound to do given the absence of a search warrant. So Marta had not, in truth, kidnapped any children but was caught up in someone else’s legal wranglings and the police made a possible retaliatory arrest.

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As for Marta’s connection to the film, this was also a detail wildly divorced from common sense. He was neither a producer nor a major financier – he had joined in with thousands of others who had contributed to the crowd-sourcing fundraiser for the production company to raise the funds for the film to be released. His outlay was $500. 

Now comes the official announcement that Marta has been cleared of all charges. He has posted the news that the grand jury hearing the case has decided to not go forward, declaring “The state has insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction.”

This means that there will be no indictment forthcoming and that both of the charges for child kidnapping have been dropped. This is also a prime example of the media racing to smear the character of an individual based solely on an arrest taking place and not waiting for due process or a trial to take place. This has become the pernicious practice of the press, to leap at a legal move and condemn the individual before the full legal process has taken place.

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This is not much different – just on a smaller, localized scale – from what we are seeing with Donald Trump, where his indictments are trumpeted as a means of declaring guilt. This is also seen with how Russell Brand is being tried in the court of public opinion before a formal legal investigation has begun, let alone anything approaching charges being filed. 

One thing we can be sure of happening – or not happening, to be more accurate. The energy in reporting on the initial arrest will not be matched in the reporting of Fabian Marta being cleared of all charges. It seems certain that Rolling Stone, and most other outlets, will be “shrugging off” this development since it will be completely blasting their previous reporting into confetti.

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