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Georgia Police Arrest Nine Men in Grindr Sex Sting

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At least one gay man claims he is facing false charges related to sex work.

Nine men have been arrested in a Grindr sex sting in northern Georgia.

The Dawson County Sheriff's Office made the apprehensions from March 2 to 4, reports the Atlanta-based LGBTQ magazine Project Q. After the apprehensions, their names, mug shots, and, in some instances, employers, were printed in a local paper in Dawsonville.

Ranging from misdemeanors to felonies, the charges leveled at this group, spanning ages 23 to 50, included pandering, obstruction, drug possession (marijuana, methamphetamine), and the attempt to distribute these substances via a communication device.

The incident report does not reveal specifics of the circumstances surrounding the apprehensions. Additionally, the sheriff's office did not respond to questions about what other apps were used and if all of the men arrested were members of the LGBTQ community.

However, one of the accused, a gay man who remained anonymous in his interview with Project Q, said he was targeted on Grindr. And he contested the allegation made in the warrant from Sgt. W. Dereck Johnson, which claimed that he offered to "perform an act of prostitution in exchange for marijuana."

The man contended this offer never happened. According to a screenshot of the conversation provided to Project Q, Johnson, under the Grindr username Charlie[looking for]420, began the conversation and offered to host an encounter at a Dawsonville Quality Inn & Suites.

When the man mentioned he had marijuana, Johnson asked "U share?" and offered to provide rolling papers. "I want to get high and fuck," Johnson messaged. To which his target replied, "Nothing wrong with that." The man now faces charges of misdemeanor pandering, possession of marijuana (less than an ounce), and criminal attempt.

Greg Nevins, senior counsel at Lambda Legal's Southern Regional Office, dismissed the pandering charge as untenable.

"The one thing that you should have before you label something prostitution is a very clear situation where the offer of the item or money is an indispensable part of the transaction," he told Project Q. "The supposed sex worker has to basically make it clear that without your paying or giving the item, there will be no sex. That's not here at all."

Police have a long history of targeting queer men in parks and other cruising grounds -- often citing the protection of children as justification for the surveillance. In the digital era, this no longer holds ground, said Nevins.

"It used to be that they would always say we have to stop these hookups in parks because our children are in parks. Well, now you're on Grindr looking for a problem that doesn't have this spillover effect," he said. "The platform has moved to a different arena where you should be happy about that if your only concern was your children not being inadvertently exposed to these things."

Gay sex stings are not a thing of the past, however. Dozens of men were arrested at Washington, D.C.'s Meridian Hill Park last year by the U.S. Park Police. And data security in gay apps remains a concern in anti-LGBTQ areas of the world, where authorities could use that information to monitor and entrap people.

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