Via press release from the Justice Department:
Three Texas men were sentenced yesterday for violent crimes. Michael Atkinson, 28, Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 21, and Daryl Henry, 24, were sentenced to prison terms for their involvement in a scheme to target gay men for violent crimes. Atkinson was sentenced to over 11 years in prison, Ceniceros-Deleon was sentenced to 22 years in prison, and Henry was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
“These three men participated in and committed acts of violence against innocent victims because they believed the victims were gay men,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “This type of bias-motivated violence runs contrary to our values and violates our federal civil rights laws. The Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division will aggressively investigate and prosecute those who target members of the LGBTQI community.”
“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 for the Northern District of Texas. “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.”
On Dec. 11, 2017, the conspirators used Grindr to lure five men to a vacant apartment in Dallas where they held the men at gunpoint, kidnapped, carjacked, and assaulted them. As part of his plea agreement, Henry admitted that he used violence and threats of violence to hold the victims in the backroom and closet of the vacant apartment while other conspirators used the victims’ vehicles to drive to local ATMs to steal cash from the victims’ accounts.
Atkinson and Ceniceros-Deleon admitted that they traveled in the carjacked vehicles to take cash from the victims’ accounts. While the victims were held at gunpoint, some were physically assaulted, at least one victim was sexually assaulted, and all of the victims were taunted with gay slurs.
In 2019, Atkinson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping and carjacking and one count of kidnapping. Ceniceros-Deleon pleaded guilty in 2019 to one hate crime count, one count of carjacking, and one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence. Henry pleaded guilty in 2019 to one hate crime count and one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping and carjacking.