Texas Man Is Sentenced for Using Dating App to Target Gay Men

·3 min read
Daniel Jenkins, 22, was the last of four defendants to be sentenced in what prosecutors called a conspiracy to target gay men. (Dallas County Sheriff's Department via The New York Times)
Daniel Jenkins, 22, was the last of four defendants to be sentenced in what prosecutors called a conspiracy to target gay men. (Dallas County Sheriff's Department via The New York Times)

A Texas man was sentenced to 23 years in federal prison Wednesday for his connection in a scheme that used the popular dating app Grindr to target gay men for violent hate crimes, prosecutors said.

The man, Daniel Jenkins, 22, of Dallas, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, carjacking, one hate crime count, and one count of using a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

Jenkins was the last of four defendants to be sentenced in the conspiracy that used Grindr, a social media app that is used primarily by gay men.

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A lawyer for Jenkins was not immediately available for comment Thursday.

“This defendant targeted innocent victims for violent crimes simply because he believed they were gay,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in the statement. She added that the sentence “underscores the Justice Department’s commitment to aggressively prosecuting bias-motivated crimes, including crimes against the LGBTQI community.”

The scheme began in December 2017 when Jenkins and a co-conspirator created profiles on Grindr to lure men to locations where they would rob them, the Department of Justice said.

In one incident early that month, after the men arrived, the members of the conspiracy held the men at gunpoint and forced them to drive to ATMs to withdraw cash from their accounts, according to the Department of Justice.

In another incident that month, Jenkins admitted, according to prosecutors, that he and others “lured multiple victims” to an apartment complex; pointed a handgun at them; robbed them of their belongings; and assaulted them, injuring one.

Jenkins told investigators that members of his group used gay slurs and taunted the victims and that one member attempted to sexually assault one of the victims, the Department of Justice said.

Prosecutors said Jenkins also admitted to taking part in the carjacking of at least one victim.

Jenkins’ co-conspirators were Michael Atkinson, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon and Daryl Henry, all of whom were in their 20s. The three men pleaded guilty in June, and their sentences ranged from 11 to 22 years.

“Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, bigots often lurk online,” Chad Meacham, acting U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas, said in a statement. “We urge users of dating apps like Grindr to remain vigilant.”

Grindr is one of several dating apps that has grown in popularity among LGBTQ users and has helped redefined the way they meet. Released in 2009, Grindr is a location-based app that tells its millions of users worldwide how far they are from one another.

In a statement Thursday, Grindr said it was “always saddened to hear about the difficult and sometimes tragic experiences that our community members have experienced both online and off.”

The company added that it encouraged its users “to be careful when interacting with people they do not know.”

In its safety guidelines, the company suggests that if someone wants to meet another user of the app, “do so in public first, at a safe space like an LGBTQ+ friendly cafe, and be careful about what possessions you take with you.”

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