The YouTube celebrity claimed the challenge — to replace the cream in Oreos with toothpaste and feed them to someone — was a harmless prank proposed by one of his 1.2 million followers.
A judge said otherwise, and ruled that giving the cookies to a homeless man — resulting in the man’s vomiting, which the YouTuber filmed on his phone and later posted to wide outrage — amounted to humiliation from which the alleged prankster profited, causing a criminal violation of the man’s moral integrity.
As a result, 21-year-old Kanghua Ren — known to his followers as ReSet — was ordered last week to pay his victim more than $20,000 and shut down his YouTube and other social media channels for five years. He was also sentenced to 15 months in prison, a term likely to be suspended because Ren is a first-time offender convicted of a non-violent crime, according to The New York Times.
The incident played out in early 2017 outside a supermarket in Barcelona, Spain, where the Chinese-born Ren lives, and where authorities identified the homeless man of Romanian origin only as Gheorge L.
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At trial where the charge was pursued by the hate crimes prosecutor’s office, Ren said he often accepted “challenges” from his YouTube followers and carried them out “in a joke,” reports the newspaper El País.
“I do things to give a show, people like morbid things,” he said during the trial, according to the outlet.
In handing the package of cookies to the man, Ren, who was then 19, also gave the man a 20 euro bill. After uploading his video, Ren wrote: “Look at the positive side: this will help you clean your teeth, I think you have not cleaned them since you became poor,” according to El País.
Ren removed the video following criticism and posted a second one in which he gave the man another 20 euro bill and spent the night with him, according to police. He also paid 300 euro to the man’s daughter, in an effort to head off a lawsuit, police said, according to the Times.
But the sentence delivered by Judge Rosa Aragonés concluded the incident had “not been an isolated act,” noting that other videos posted by Ren showed “cruel behavior” targeting “easy or vulnerable victims,” including the offer of sandwiches containing cat dung to the elderly and children in a park, reports El País.
The judge also noted that the Oreo video, while in circulation, had generated an advertising profit for Ren’s YouTube channel of about 2,000 euros — and thus, according to the outlet, Ren was ordered to pay the victim ten times that amount, 20,000 euros, or about $22,300.
She judged the effort “to effectively capture the morbid attention of his followers” and boost advertising to be “a clear and unambiguous act of humiliating content.”