Texans Anthony Shelton 20, and Cameron Ajiduah, 19, were sentenced Monday to 20 and 15 years in prison, respectively, after having been convicted of federal hate-crimes charges for assaulting gay men they contacted on the dating app Grindr.
The two were found guilty of four separate home invasions in suburbs of Dallas-Fort Worth. They contacted their victims on Grindr, made arrangements to meet them at their homes, then assaulted and robbed them there, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
"This case highlights the danger of the internet and specifically, online apps," Joseph D. Brown, U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, explained in a press release. "In this case, the defendants misused the internet for sinister purposes in order to target an innocent man based on his sexual orientation, causing him bodily harm and damage to his property."
In one of the invasions, Shelton and Ajiduah, brandishing a gun, entered a gay man's home, restrained him with tape, and assaulted him while making homophobic remarks. According to their plea agreements, they also stole the victim's car and other property.
A federal grand jury had indicted the two on 18 counts, including hate crimes, kidnappings, carjackings, and using firearms to commit violent crimes. Shelton and Ajduah, along with Nigel Garrett and Chancler Encalade, other defendants who helped carry out the attacks, were charged with conspiring to cause bodily injury because of their victims' sexual orientation.
"The Department of Justice 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 commented on the case. "The department will continue to investigate and prosecute hate-crimes cases."