Social media posts lands two Arvadans in conflict

One fake political ad sparks two criminal investigations

Posted 7/25/18

Two investigations are now underway concerning social media postings from Arvada residents. The first came when Arvada resident Katie Winner found a paid advertisement on the political Facebook page …

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Social media posts lands two Arvadans in conflict

One fake political ad sparks two criminal investigations

Posted

Two investigations to determine if a crime has been committed are now underway concerning social media postings from Arvada residents.

The first came when Arvada resident Katie Winner found a paid advertisement on the political Facebook page Joshua for Arvada, run by Joshua Jered Rodriguez, a candidate for the 2019 District 4 Arvada City Council race. The post appeared to be a share from Winner’s Facebook page that endorsed Rodriguez for the city council seat.

However, Winner says she never wrote that post.

“I never wrote those words about any candidate,” said Winner said, an active member of the Jeffco schools community who recently started her own company, a communications firm. “I would never write those words about Joshua Jered Rodriguez for Arvada City Council. My opinion is that the entire post is Photoshopped.”

Rodriguez maintains he did not fabricate the post. “I believed it was a real post," he said.

Winner found the post, which ran as sponsored content on the Joshua for Arvada page July 2-3, while testing out Facebook’s new political content feature — an effort to protect election security on Facebook. As a result, ads that have political content and have appeared on Facebook on or after May 7 now also appear in the archive of ads with political content.

Winner said while checking the Joshua for Arvada page archive on July 15, she found the ad with her profile picture and “a glowing endorsement” attributed to her.

Winner reported the ad to Facebook, but as of July 26 she said she had not received a response. She also filed a complaint with the Arvada Police Department, which was referred to the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office for investigation.

Rodriguez, who works as a water scientist, said Winner has been "cyberbullying" him and the post was a gesture of good faith.

In a July 16 post on Nextdoor.com, he wrote that a person he believed to be Winner contacted him saying she would stop the continued harassment for an amount of $500 and additionally post an endorsement on Facebook.

Colorado Community Media requested screenshots of this offer, but Rodriguez said the message was no longer available because he reported it to Facebook. However, Facebook messages that are reported to the company do not seem to disappear as he described when Colorado Community Media tested the process.

On Nextdoor.com, Rodriguez stated, “Under bad judgment I agreed and paid that amount and received an endorsement that I posted on Facebook. Katie Winner’s account was catfished.”

But the story he told the Colorado Community Media on July 23 was different.

“I did not pay,” he said, adding that he did agree to pay and as a sign of good faith, she posted the endorsement.

“The person that contacted me was catfished, had a lot of information, or it was Katie Winner,” Rodriguez said. “I have to assume it was her.”

When asked about Rodriguez's assertion that she was harassing him online, Winner said she had conversed with him on Facebook and the Nextdoor.com forum, but that in her opinion she was not bullying him.

“Whenever Joshua Jered Rodriguez posted fake and false information about the city of Arvada, about Jeffco schools or the issues in the community, I confronted him with facts,” Winner said. “But I never debated the facts with him. I just told him this is false information.”

Two specific instances of this were Nextdoor.com posts about Arvada taxes in District 4 and a report on the Jeffco schools' school safety task force, of which Rodriguez was a member.

In the June thread about the school safety task force, Rodriguez posted “talking points” from the June 18 subcommittee meetings, which sparked concern from parents. In the thread, Winner pushed Rodriguez for more information on where his notes came from and his stance on the issues. She also directed community members to an online survey of the task force.

“I take being an involved advocate importantly,” Winner said. “This is why I read the news. Newsrooms have standards. That’s why this is so important to me. This person is saying I’m not credible and not factual. I’m constantly redirecting people to first sources and citing news articles. I’m helping the community get facts and get information.”

But Rodriguez said he perceived this as following him too intensely online. On July 20, he filed a complaint with the Arvada Police Department accusing Winners of cyberstalking.

“Over the past six months, if I post something on Facebook or Nextdoor, she is there harassing me,” Rodriguez said. “I’m trying to (do my) best to contact people associated with her and point them toward the Arvada police.”

The day after he filed his police report, Rodriguez contacted several of Winner’s contacts via Facebook Messenger urging them to stop association with her. The Arvada Press received one of these messages.

“She is definitely stalking me,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be up to the Arvada Police Department to determine what is going on.”

But Winner said that if anyone is being bullied, it is her.

“All he has to say is he made a mistake,” Winner said. “He created something and paid for it as an ad and he just has to say ‘sorry' and back out of the race. This individual has just made things a lot worse by attacking my business with slander and libel.”

Although he has not officially withdrawn from the city council race — of which he is the only declared candidate at this time — Rodriguez said that he will be “stepping back” from politics.

Both police reports are being investigated as criminal complaints. The investigations will determine whether a crime has been committed by either party. Once the ongoing investigation is completed, law enforcement will determine if charges will be filed.

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