A federal case in Texas illustrates how the internet has widened the scope of hate crime laws in the United States.
A man from Dallas pleaded guilty this month to one hate crime stemming from a scheme that targeted gay men on the dating app Grindr.
Daniel Jenkins, 22, pleaded guilty to one hate crime count, kidnapping, carjacking, conspiracy, and one count of using a firearm during an act of violence, the news channel CBS DFW reported. He is the last of four defendants to plead guilty under the scheme, according to the channel.
The U.S. Department of Justice accuses the men of hate crimes because they singled out victims on the app due to their sexual orientation.
“These defendants brutalized multiple victims, singling them out due to their sexual orientation. We cannot allow this sort of violence to fester unchecked,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Prerak Shah in a statement. “The Department of Justice is committed to prosecuting hate crimes. In the meantime, we urge dating app users to remain vigilant. Unfortunately, predators often lurk online.”
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division reaffirmed the department’s commitment to fighting hate-based violence.
“The Department of Justice and the Civil Rights Division are committed to confronting the scourge of hate-based violence gripping communities across our nation,” she said. “We denounce hate-based violence in all of its forms, including violence targeting individuals based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We will continue to diligently investigate and prosecute violent, bias-motivated crimes to the fullest extent. As noted by Attorney General Garland, we stand ready to use every tool in our arsenal to address the rise in hate and we will work to hold perpetrators of hate-motivated violence accountable.”
According to documents filed in connection with his guilty plea, Jenkins admitted that he and his co-conspirators used Grindr to lure gay men to an empty apartment and other locations in and around Dallas for robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, and hate crimes over the course of a week in December 2017. Grindr is a social media dating platform used mainly by gay men.
The United States Attorney’s Office stated Jenkins admitted he held victims against their will along with the other defendants. He said he pointed a handgun at the victims and stole their personal property.
The defendants took vehicles; and traveled to local ATMs to withdraw money from the victims’ accounts. Jenkins also admitted that he and his co-conspirators physically hurt at least one victim and taunted their victims based upon the co-conspirators’ perception of the men’s homosexuality.
In 2019, Jenkins’ co-conspirator Michael Atkinson entered a guilty plea to conspiracy and kidnapping charges. Daryl Henry and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon also pleaded guilty to committing a federal hate crime and other offenses in connection with the case. A sentencing hearing has been set for June 23 for the three men.
Jenkins’ sentencing is set for Oct. 6. Under the terms of the plea agreement, he faces a sentence of up to 26 years in prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Texas has a dedicated hate crimes act. However, these crimes are often investigated at a federal level. These crimes typically carry long prison terms. They are complicated crimes. Always hire a criminal defense lawyer who has a long track record of defending defendants in federal cases. Broden & Mickelsen have handled hundreds of federal criminal cases, not only in Dallas and other Texas cities but in federal courts around the United States. Call us at (214) 720-9552.