On Thursday, 43 year-old Iowa man Sherman Hopkins Jr. was sentenced to 20 years in prison for attempting to forcibly steal a domain name from another man at gunpoint in 2017.
Domain hijacking, when someone illegally gains control of another person’s website, is quite common, but this may be the first time someone has attempted to steal a domain name at gunpoint.
Last June, Hopkins broke into the home of 26 year-old Ethan Deyo in Cedar Rapids, Iowa one afternoon and demanded that Deyo to log on to his computer to transfer the domain name for “doitforstate.com” to another account. According to Deyo’s bio on his personal website, he is a web entrepreneur who previously worked for the web hosting service GoDaddy.
After seeing Hopkins enter the apartment, Deyo locked himself into his room and Hopkins kicked in the door. Hopkins kicked in the door and “pistol-whipped” Deyo, held a gun to his head and used a stun gun on him during the encounter. While he attempted to wrestle the gun away from Hopkins, Deyo was shot in the leg, but he eventually gained control of the firearm and shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest.
According to court documents seen by Motherboard, Hopkins initially faced charges of kidnapping, possession of a firearm by a felon (Hopkins had previously been charged with perjury in 2007), and the use of a firearm in during a crime of violence. But last December Hopkins pleaded guilty to one count of interference and attempted interference with commerce by threats and violence.
It’s unclear why Hopkins wanted the domain name or who he was transferring the domain name to. “I can’t give a lot of details on the investigation,” Cedar Rapids public safety spokesperson Greg Buelow said last year after the incident. “This domain name is valuable and he wanted that transferred back to someone else.”
“Do it for state” is a recently-minted turn of phrase that seems to have emerged out of frat culture at Iowa State University in 2017 and found a home on social media. It’s also the name of the popular Twitter account @doitforstate_og, which is mostly just pictures of butts and people chugging beer.
Although doitforstate.com doesn’t currently return a web page, the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine has a snapshot dating back to January 2015. The last snapshot before the website was taken down was a month after the robbery. The website described itself as serving up “College stories, College Life, College Snaps.” It also contains a link to another popular Twitter account, @doitforstate, which links to an Iowa recording company, Elite Sound and Design Studios.
Motherboard has reached out to Deyo and Elite Sound and Design Studios by email for more information and will update this post if we hear back.