Lawyer becomes an internet sensation after kitten Zoom filter mishap

‘I didn’t know Zoom could turn me into a cat’: Texas lawyer who became an internet sensation after filter transformed him into a kitten during online court hearing says he’s glad it’s given everyone ‘a good laugh’

  • A Zoom filter transformed Rod Ponton into a cat during a hearing on Tuesday 
  • A video of the amusing mishap has since been viewed at least 20million times
  • The attorney, 69, said he was just as surprised by his internet fame as he was to appear onscreen as a fluffy feline in the first place
  • In the video, presiding judge Roy Ferguson can be heard altering Ponton to his unusual appearance
  • Ponton then lets out a panicked ‘aghh’, as the cat filter over his face begins shifting its eyes back-and-forth and moving its mouth
  • The attorney also clarifies to the judge that he’s ‘not a cat’ and can proceed 

A Texas lawyer has become an internet sensation after he accidentally left a kitten filter on during a Zoom hearing.

In the now-viral video, Presidio County attorney Rod Ponton hilariously tells the judge ‘I’m not a cat’ as he frantically tries to remove the animated image during the Tuesday call.

‘I did not know that Zoom could turn me into a cat, and I did not know that a cat Zoom could turn me into an internet celebrity but it all happened in just a matter of hours,’ Ponton told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday. 

‘It turns out it provided a good laugh for the country,’ he said. 

The hilarious video begins with presiding judge Roy Ferguson telling Ponton: ‘I believe you have a filter turned on in video settings and you might want to turn it off’

The video has been viewed at least 20million times as of Wednesday morning, with the amusing mishap apparently striking a chord with the millions around the world who have had to get to grips with remote working during the coronavirus pandemic. 

‘I think that anybody who’s ever struggled with a computer or with Zoom could recognise that those kind of things could happen and it certainly did happen to me,’ Ponton said. 

How do Zoom filters work? 

In the almost 12 months of mass remote working, many people have been forced to get acquainted with Zoom, a video conferencing app.

As well as allowing users to make video calls, Zoom offers a number of other features, including false backdrops that can mask a caller’s surroundings and even make it appear as if they’re working from a beach.

A lesser known filter gives users the choice to liven up their look with unicorn horns, a pirate’s eye patch or even virtual make up.  

This can be done by pressing the arrow next to the ‘Start Video’ button during a Zoom call and selecting ‘Choose video filter’ then clicking your preferred adornment.

To remove the filter, simply repeat the process and select ‘None’ from the filter options.  

On Tuesday, a video of Texas lawyer Rod Ponton went viral after he accidentally appeared at a Zoom hearing in the guise of a fluffy white kitten.

The animated feline replaced Ponton’s face and moved its mouth and eyes to replicate his movements and speech.

Ponton’s pussycat feature does not come with Zoom and appeared to be the result of a Snap Camera filter, made by the company behind popular app Snapchat.

If you want to try it out for yourself, download the app and search through the filters (called ‘lenses’).

Once you’ve selected your filter, head to Zoom and go to Settings > Video > Camera and select ‘SnapCamera’ from the drop-down options.

You should then appear behind a filter in the video preview box.

To remove the filter, go back to Settings > Video > Camera and select your usual camera.

The video begins with presiding judge Roy Ferguson telling Ponton: ‘I believe you have a filter turned on in video settings and you might want to turn it off.’

Ponton, 69, is then heard letting out a panicked ‘aghh’, as the fluffy white kitten filter over his face begins shifting its eyes back-and-forth and moving its mouth in unison with his voice.

‘Can you hear me judge?’ the feline-emblazoned Ponto is heard asking, his voice quivering.

Ferguson confirms that he can hear Ponton and reiterates that he believes he has a filter switched on. 

‘It is [a filter]’, Ponton hastily interjects. ‘And I don’t know how to remove it. I’ve got my assistant here, she’s trying to, but ahhh I’m prepared to go forward with it… I’m here live, I’m not a cat.’  

At this point, the two other people present at the 394th Judicial District Court of Brewster hearing –  H. Gibbs Bauer and Jerry L. Phillips – begin to laugh. 

Judge Ferguson, however, manages to keep a straight face, offering a deadpan response of, ‘I can see that.’

The judge then begins calmly offering Ponton a step-by-step guide for how to remove the kitten filter, before the video abruptly cuts out. 

Ponton has since revealed that he was using his secretary’s computer at a remote office in Presidio, telling the San Antonio Express that this is the first time something like this has happened in the eight months he’s been using Zoom amid the pandemic. 

‘It was certainly not an intentional thing to put the cat image up there but s*** happens,’ he laughed. ‘If I can make everybody laugh for a moment at my expense, I’ll take it.’

Ponton said the filter was eventually removed and the hearing was able to continue as normal. 

He told the BBC that he was originally taken aback by the ‘deluge of phone calls and emails’ that came in following the video’s publication, but that he had decided to reluctantly accept his viral fame.

‘The Texans have a phrase ‘You can’t put toothpaste back in the tube’ and I finally realised that this was gonna become an internet sensation,’ he said.

‘I just had to laugh at myself along with everybody else doing so and roll with it.’  

Speaking to Vice on Tuesday, Ponton revealed that the hearing was being held for a man who was attempting to exit the US with contraband and illicitly-obtained cash.  

The amusing mishap happened to attorney Rod Ponton during a live streamed hearing this morning for the 394th Judicial District Court of Brewster

Judge Ferguson released the video, which has been viewed at least 20million times as of Wednesday morning, saying it showed the ‘legal profession’s dedication’.  

‘IMPORTANT ZOOM TIP: If a child used your computer, before you join a virtual hearing check the Zoom Video Options to be sure filters are off. This kitten just made a formal announcement on a case in the 394th,’ Ferguson wrote on Twitter after the call.

He continued in a second post: ‘These fun moments are a by-product of the legal profession’s dedication to ensuring that the justice system continues to function in these tough times. Everyone involved handled it with dignity, and the filtered lawyer showed incredible grace. True professionalism all around!’ 

Ponton is then heard letting out a panicked ‘aghh’, as the cat filter over his face begins shifting its eyes back-and-forth and moving its mouth in unison with his voice

Judge Ferguson (above in different hearing) managed to keep a straight face throughout the ordeal

Reaction among legal colleagues in the region began cropping up on Twitter in the hours since the video was shared online. 

Kendyl Hanks called the exchange ‘one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen’. 

‘The poor lawyer can’t figure out how to turn off the filter so offers to proceed anyway, promising the judge he’s not a cat. And kudos to [Judge Ferguson] for walking him through it calmly without bursting into giggles.’

Harold Cook added: ‘Well we all suspected Rod Ponton would one day become accidentally famous for something. But I didn’t have this on my bingo card.’ 

Ponton was formerly the District Attorney in the Big Bend region and was once the city attorney for Presidio. 

He also appeared in the Netflix documentary The Confession Killer in 2019 about the infamous convicted murderer Henry Lee Lucas, whom he represented in his 1986 capital murder prosecution. 

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