Cameron Ajiduah, 19, received a 15-year sentence while Anthony Shelton, 20, was sentenced to serve 20 years. The two men admitted they participated in four separate home invasions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Along with two other men, Ajiduah and Shelton passed themselves off as single gay men and made arrangements to meet at their victims’ homes in January and February of 2017.
Once inside the homes, the four men assaulted their victims, tied them up and shouted anti-LGBTQ epithets.
Both Ajiduah and Shelton admitted that they targeted victims because of their sexual orientation, and pleaded guilty to the federal hate crime charges last year. Nigel Garrett, 21, and Chancler Encalade, 20, also pleaded guilty in the case and earlier this year were sentenced to 15 years and 10 years behind bars, respectively.
“This case highlights the danger of the internet and specifically, online apps,” U.S. Attorney Joseph D. Brown for the eastern district of Texas said in a press release.
The defendants “misused the internet for sinister purposes,” targeting innocent men based on their sexual orientation, he said.
When asked about the case in January, a Grindr spokesman told HuffPost that the app was “committed to creating a safe environment through a system of digital and human screening tools to help its users connect and thrive,” and also “encourages users to report suspicious and threatening activities.”
“While we are constantly improving upon this process, it is important to remember that Grindr is an open platform,” the spokesman said at the time. “Grindr cooperates with law enforcement on a regular basis and does not condone abusive or violent behavior.”
The Justice Department has touted the case to show its commitment to prosecuting hate crimes.
The department “will not tolerate any act of violence targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation, gender identity, race, color, religion, disability, or national origin,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore of the civil rights division said in a press release. “The Department will continue to investigate and prosecute hate crimes cases.”