Fact Check

Was 'Sound of Freedom' Funder Fabian Marta Arrested in Felony Child Kidnapping Case?

By email, the circuit court's public information officer in St. Louis said, "There was not sufficient evidence to support charges against Mr. Marta."

Published Aug. 4, 2023

Updated Oct. 26, 2023
 (Douglas Sacha/Getty Images)
Image Via Douglas Sacha/Getty Images
Claim:
Fabian Marta was a major funder for "Sound of Freedom" and was arrested in St. Louis "for felony child kidnapping" shortly after the film's release.
Context

It's true that Marta contributed money to invest in the movie and was later arrested in July 2023 in a case that included charges that mentioned child kidnapping. However, multiple points of context were missing from online posts that promoted this rumor. First, Marta was one of more than 6,600 "Angel investors" who contributed to a crowdfunding effort for the film. There was no evidence that he was a major investor. Also, the charges were specifically for being an accessory to child kidnapping, not "felony child kidnapping." USA Today later reported that those same charges against Marta were dropped on Sept. 25, adding that Christine Bertelson, the circuit court's public information officer in St. Louis, said that, "The case involved 'a misunderstanding' between relatives of the children in question," and that, "There was no kidnapping." Bertelson also later told Snopes by email that "there was not sufficient evidence to support charges against Mr. Marta."

Editor’s Note: On Oct. 26, 2023, this report was updated with a new fact-check claim. Also, the fact-check rating was changed from “True” to “Mixture.” Here’s why: Some users on X originally claimed that the charges against Marta were “felony child kidnapping.” While our story mentioned the correct charges as of Aug. 7 – accessory to child kidnapping – the claim section of this fact check did not accurately reflect the specific and incorrect “felony child kidnapping” claim made in online posts. Mention of a separate allegation against Marta and a statement from his attorney about that separate allegation have both been removed, as they were unrelated to the rumor reported on in this story, as was his mug shot. Further, we have removed mentions of Jim Stewartson.

In early August 2023, users on Twitter posted a claim that alleged a man named Fabian Marta was a funder for the July 4 theatrical release of the child sex-trafficking movie "Sound of Freedom" and had been arrested in Missouri for "felony child kidnapping." Some posts, such as this Reddit thread, also said that he was a major funder for the film.

However, this rumor was missing several key points of context.

It was true that Marta had been arrested in July and charged in a case that mentioned child kidnapping. However, the charges were on suspicion of being an accessory to child kidnapping, not "felony child kidnapping."

In an update, on Sept. 25, a Missouri judge dismissed the charges against Marta after the prosecution declared it had "insufficient evidence to obtain a conviction."

On Oct. 4, USA Today reported that Christine Bertelson, the circuit court's public information officer in St. Louis, said that, "The case involved 'a misunderstanding' between relatives of the children in question," and that, "There was no kidnapping." Bertelson also later told Snopes by email that "there was not sufficient evidence to support charges against Mr. Marta."

Further, Marta was one of thousands of investors who helped to crowdfund the film. There was no evidence that he was a major funder, as was alleged in some online posts.

In August, before we published our original story, we reached out to Marta and spoke with him over a voice call on Messenger. He directed us to his lawyer for further questions.

By email, St. Louis-based Scott Rosenblum, an attorney representing Marta, confirmed at the time that it was true his client both provided some funding for "Sound of Freedom" and was under investigation after being charged with accessory to child kidnapping in Missouri. The St. Louis Police Department told Snopes via email that Marta was arrested on July 23.

"He has been charged," Rosenblum told Snopes. "We will enter a plea of not guilty."

The website for Angel Studios, the distributor for "Sound of Freedom," detailed that over 6,600 individuals pitched in as "Angel investors" to raise nearly $5 million in funds to go toward the movie's theatrical release.

Marta's name appeared on screen during the film's end credits as "Fabian Marta & Family" under the list of "Angel investors."

He was not, however, a producer for the movie, as at least one TikTok user falsely claimed.

After the controversy involving Marta was brought to the attention of Angel Studios Co-Founder Jeffrey Harmon, he tweeted a video showing the massive list of names of such investors that rolled during the end credits:

Sources

"565.115." Missouri Revisor of Statues, https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=565.115&bid=29317.

@AngelStudiosInc. Twitter, https://twitter.com/AngelStudiosInc/.

“Antisemitism, False Information and Hate Speech Find a Home on Substack | ADL.” Anti-Defamation League, Center on Extremism, https://www.adl.org/resources/blog/antisemitism-false-information-and-hate-speech-find-home-substack-0.

"Back This Theatrical Release." Angel Funding, https://invest.angel.com/freedom.

della Cava, Marco. “Charges Dropped against ‘Sound of Freedom’ Crowd Investor: ‘There Was No Kidnapping.’” USA Today, Oct. 4, 2023, https://www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/movies/2023/10/04/sound-of-freedom-kidnapping-accessory-charges-dropped/71043905007/.

Graham, Efrem. "Angel Studios Stuns Hollywood as 'Sound of Freedom' Soars to $125M: Here's Their Secret to Success." CBN, July 20, 2023, https://www2.cbn.com/news/entertainment/angel-studios-stuns-hollywood-sound-freedom-soars-125m-heres-their-secret.

Updates

Aug. 7, 2023: This report was updated to specify that Marta was being charged with accessory to child kidnapping.

Sept. 26, 2023: This report was updated to reflect the fact that a Missouri judge had dismissed the case against Marta, citing "insufficient evidence" from the prosecution.

Oct. 26, 2023: This report was updated with an editor's note and a new fact-check claim and rating. The rating was changed from “True” to “Mixture" for reasons mentioned in the editor's note.

Jordan Liles is a Senior Reporter who has been with Snopes since 2016.

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