One of the four Texas men who used the dating app Grindr to target and assault gay men in a string of home invasions in the Dallas area has been sentenced to 15 years in federal prison for the hate crimes.Nigel Garrett, 21, confessed in August that he, along with three other defendants, used Grindr to set up meetings with their victims at their homes over a one-month period in early 2017.“Upon entering the victim’s home, the defendants restrained the victim with tape, physically assaulted the victim, and made derogatory statements to the victim for being gay,” the DOJ press release stated on Wednesday. “The defendants brandished a firearm during the home invasion, and they stole the victim’s property, including his motor vehicle.”
“The Justice Department will not tolerate hate crimes against any individual based on sexual orientation,” Acting Assistant Attorney General John Gore, who oversees the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “Hate crimes are violent crimes but also attack the fundamental principles of the United States. The Justice Department will continue to aggressively investigate and prosecute hate crimes.”A federal grand jury last May returned an 18-count indictment against all four suspects, which included federal hate crime charges, kidnappings, carjackings, and use of firearms to commit violent crimes.The three other suspects — Anthony Shelton, Chancler Encalade, and Cameron Ajiduah — also pleaded guilty, and await sentencing.Read more: How will Jeff Sessions go after hate crimes?Civil rights advocates were skeptical whether the DOJ under Attorney General Jeff Sessions would continue to aggressively prosecute hate crimes against LGBTQ people. As U.S. senator, Sessions fought the passage of the 2009 Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the existing federal hate crime statute to protect gay and transgender Americans. At the Hate Crimes Summit last June, Sessions doubled down on his commitment to aggressively prosecuting hate crimes.However, LGBTQ advocates have also underscored what they say is a contradiction between Sessions’ apparent dedication to prosecution of individual hate crimes and the Trump administration’s systematic rollback of protections for gay and transgender people. In July, for example, the DOJ issued a sweeping memo saying that a major civil rights law didn’t protect gay employees.The DOJ also submitted a brief siding with a baker in Indiana who refused to provide service to a gay couple in a major Supreme Court case — a reversal from the position taken by the Obama administration.