Two Dallas men plead guilty to using social media for hate crimes against gay men

In 2018, FBI records show that there were 7,036 single-bias incidents involving 8,646 victims. Of these, 1,196 cases were hate crimes based on the sexual orientation of the victims

Two Dallas men charged with scheming and carrying out violent hate crimes against gay men pleaded guilty to the charges on Thursday. Daryl Henry, 24, and Pablo Ceniceros-Deleon, 19, were found guilty of using social media to trap victims and effect crimes against them.

The court documents filed in connection with their pleas illustrated how the perpetrators picked their victims. They used the social media dating platform, Grindr, to target gay men. They would lure their targets to a vacant apartment or other areas in Dallas. Subsequently, they would subject their victims to various crimes such as robbery, kidnapping, carjacking, and hate crimes.

Used dating platform to target gay men

While Henry confessed to holding the victims against their will at the vacant apartment, Ceniceros-Deleon confessed that he and other accomplices would visit local ATMs to withdraw cash from the accounts of their victims. Another confession from both the convicts revealed how the duo and their accomplices would mock and jeer at the victims— based on their judgments on the sexuality of the victims.

Picture for representation
Representational Picture Reuters

Talking about the MO and nature of the crime, Erin Nealy Cox, US Attorney, Northern District of Texas, said in a statement, "These defendants used Grindr to single out their victim based on sexual orientation – something the Northern District of Texas simply will not tolerate." He expressed concern over the increasing use of dating applications to perpetrate violent crimes. Cox also urged the public to employ caution while using such applications.

Charged for various crimes, including hate crimes

Henry was found guilty of one count under the hate crime act (18 U.S.C. § 249), and one count of conspiracy to commit hate crimes, kidnapping, and carjacking (18 U.S.C. § 371). Ceniceros-Deleon has been charged with three counts-- one count under the hate crime act, one count of carjacking (18 U.S.C. § 2119), and one count of use of a firearm during and in relation to a crime of violence (18 U.S.C. § 924(c)) Ceniceros-Deleon is set to be sentenced on April 1, 2020, while no date has been set for Henry's hearing.

Michael Atkinson, a co-conspirator in the case, had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy and kidnapping charges in March 2019. His sentencing is set to take place in February 2020.

Authorities committed to bringing criminals to justice

According to the Hate Crime Statistics for the year 2018 released by the FBI, there were 7,036 single-bias incidents involving 8,646 victims. Of these, 1,196 cases were hate crimes based on the sexual orientation of the victims. This roughly translates to 16.7 percent of the total number of hate crime victims. Therefore, looking at this case in conjunction with the data brings the need for stringent action against hate crime into focus.

Placing emphasis on the Justice Department's commitment to bringing criminals engaging in hate crimes to book, Eric Dreiband, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, said, "Prosecuting those who commit such monstrous acts because of victims' sexual orientation is a priority of the Department of Justice, and we will continue to bring to justice anyone who commits such hateful, violent crimes."

Matthew J. DeSarno, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Dallas, reassured the public that the FBI would pursue individuals who commit violent hate acts against any member of the community. "One of the FBI's top priorities is to defend the civil rights of the communities we serve. We actively work with our law enforcement partners to investigate hate crimes and achieve justice for the victims impacted by these violent crimes," he added.

This article was first published on December 14, 2019