Atkinson, 24, pleaded guilty today to kidnapping and conspiracy charges
in connection with his involvement in a scheme to target gay men for
violent crimes, announced Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of
the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, U.S. Attorney for the
Northern District of Texas Erin Nealy Cox, and Acting FBI Special
Agent-in-Charge of the Dallas Division Michael Schneider.
“The Department of Justice will continue to protect individuals and
communities from violence based on sexual orientation or gender
identity,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband of the Civil
Rights Division. “The Department will continue to bring perpetrators of
hate crimes to justice.”
“The Northern District of Texas will not tolerate criminals who
single out victims based on their sexual orientation,” said U.S.
Attorney Erin Nealy Cox. “Unfortunately, this is not the first time
we’ve seen despicable crimes committed on apps like Grindr. I want to
urge the public to be vigilant online and recognize the dangers that are
“Michael Atkinson targeted the victims in this case because of their
sexual orientation. Hate crimes affect not only the victims, but also
have a devastating impact on their families and an entire community,”
said Michael Schneider, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Dallas
Division. “The FBI works tirelessly with our federal, state, and local
partners to thoroughly investigate many types of hate crimes, hold the
perpetrators accountable for their actions, and bring justice to the
According to the plea agreement, Atkinson admitted to joining a
conspiracy to use Grindr, a social media dating platform, to lure gay
men to areas around Dallas, including a vacant apartment, for robbery,
carjacking, kidnapping, and hate crimes. On Dec. 11, 2017, Atkinson
reached out to one co-conspirator and asked to join the conspiracy.
Following this conversation, Atkinson brought a loaded handgun to a
vacant apartment where the victims were being held captive. Upon
arriving at the apartment, Atkinson learned that a co-conspirator had
sexually assaulted at least one of the victims and that a co-conspirator
had wiped human feces on and urinated on another victim. Atkinson
remained with the conspirators and allowed a co-conspirator to use his
handgun to hold victims in the apartment against their will. Atkinson
and a co-conspirator then took one of these victims at gunpoint to the
victim’s home in an attempt to steal the victim's property. According to
the plea papers, Atkinson witnessed a co-conspirator assault one victim
and call the victim gay slurs. In addition, Atkinson admitted to going
to local ATMs to withdraw cash from the victims’ accounts.
Atkinson faces a maximum statutory penalty of life in prison for the
kidnapping charge and five years in prison for the conspiracy charge,
and a fine of up to $250,000 with respect to each offense. The maximum
statutory sentence prescribed by Congress is provided here for
information purposes, as the sentence will be determined by the court
based on the advisory sentencing guidelines and other statutory factors.
The FBI’s Dallas Field Office conducted the federal investigation
with the assistance and cooperation of the Dallas Police Department.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Nicole Dana of the Northern District of Texas
and Trial Attorneys Rose E. Gibson and Kathryn Gilbert of the Justice
Department’s Civil Rights Division are prosecuting the case.