Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
A social media influencer has been sentenced to 14 years in federal prison for concocting a scheme to violently coerce a stranger into giving up a web domain name, the US Department of Justice announced today.
The influencer, Rossi Lorathio Adams II, went by the name “Polo,” and he ran a series of accounts across Instagram and other platforms known as State Snaps while attending college at Iowa State University. The accounts, which Adams began operating around 2015, typically involved depictions of risky or sexually explicit behavior, often featuring college girls. According to The Washington Post, one account Adams ran on Instagram had amassed 1.5 million followers.
Adams, however, became increasingly frustrated that he did not own doitforstate.com, a reference to a popular hashtag (“#DoItForState”) on social media the influencer often used in comments and captions to invoke the type of behavior he would later post about to millions of fans online. The domain name carrying Adams’ slogan was in fact owned by a Cedar Rapids individual, Ethan Deyo, with whom Adams had no prior affiliation.
Adams really wanted that domain name, so much so he committed a felony
Adams attempted to purchase the domain name over the course of two years, but ultimately failed as Deyo initially had no intention to sell it. At one point, Deyo did offer to sell the name to Adams for $20,000, but Adams felt the amount too high. Instead of giving up on his quest to own doitforstate.com, Adams turned to intimidation. He sent a gun emoji to one of Deyo’s friends via text, and also at one point showed up to the man’s door.
Eventually, in the summer of 2017, Adams decided to try more violent in-person intimidation. He hired his cousin, a convicted felon named Sherman Hopkins, Jr. who then lived in a homeless shelter, to break into the Deyo’s home and threaten him at gunpoint to transfer the name. Hopkins obliged, showing up at the man’s home with a taser and a pistol while disguised with a pair of pantyhose over his head and black sunglasses on his face. Hopkins also had a list of detailed instructions for how Deyo could transfer the name to Adams.
Yet in what sounds like the climax of a Coen Brothers dark comedy, Deyo ended up wrestling the gun out of Hopkins’ hands after being shot once in the leg, whereupon he shot Hopkins numerous times in the chest. Both men survived.
Hopkins was ultimately sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty in 2017 to one count of interference and attempted interference with commerce by threats and violence, according to an article from the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Adams was convinced in a jury trial in April of this year of conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats, and violence. He was only just sentenced this week.