An Iowa man who plotted to steal an Internet domain name at gunpoint was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison yesterday.
Rossi Lorathio Adams II, a former Iowa State University student who ran a social-media platform featuring “images and videos of young adults engaged in crude behavior, drunkenness, and nudity,” repeatedly tried to buy the “doitforstate.com” domain name from a resident of Cedar Rapids.
But Adams refused to pay the domain-name owner’s $20,000 asking price—and then things got weird.
“In June 2017, Adams enlisted his cousin, Sherman Hopkins Jr., to break into the domain owner’s home and force him at gunpoint to transfer doitforstate.com to Adams,” a Department of Justice press release said. Hopkins was previously sentenced to 20 years in prison as part of a plea agreement. More details are in the government’s trial brief.
Adams’ social-media venture was called “State Snaps” and had more than 1 million followers on Snapchat, Instagram, and Twitter, the DOJ press release said. The phrase “Do It For State!” was commonly used on the State Snaps platform, which explains why Adams wanted the doitforstate.com domain name.
The DOJ described Adams as a “social media influencer.” Adams told law enforcement that “he used to own the doitforstate.com domain name” before the victim did, according to the trial brief. The victim registered the domain name on GoDaddy sometime after Adams lost control of it. Adams allegedly began pressuring the victim to sell the domain name to him in June 2015.
Robbery ends in gunshots
In June 2017, Adams drove Hopkins to the domain-name owner’s house “and provided Hopkins with a demand note, which contained instructions for transferring the domain to Adams’ GoDaddy account,” the DOJ said. The heist didn’t go as planned, and both the domain-name owner and Hopkins ended up suffering gunshot wounds.
Here’s how the DOJ described the incident:
When Hopkins entered the victim’s home in Cedar Rapids, he was carrying a cellular telephone, a stolen gun, [and] a taser, and he was wearing a hat, pantyhose on his head, and dark sunglasses on his face.
The victim was upstairs and heard Hopkins enter the home. From the top of a staircase, the victim saw Hopkins with the gun on the first floor. Hopkins shouted at the victim, who then ran into an upstairs bedroom and shut the door, leaning up against the door to stop Hopkins from entering.
Hopkins went upstairs, kicked the door open, grabbed the victim by the arm and demanded to know where he kept his computer. When the victim told Hopkins that he kept his computer in his home office, Hopkins forcibly moved the victim to the office. Hopkins ordered the victim to turn on his computer and connect to the Internet. Hopkins pulled out Adams’ demand note, which contained a series of directions on how to change an Internet domain name from the domain owner’s GoDaddy account to one of Adams’ GoDaddy accounts.
Hopkins put the firearm against the victim’s head and ordered him to follow the directions on the demand note. Hopkins then pistol whipped the victim several times in the head. Fearing for his life, the victim quickly turned to move the gun away from his head. The victim then managed to gain control of the gun, but during the struggle, he was shot in the leg. The victim shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest. He then contacted law enforcement.
Hopkins also tased the victim in the “left arm, back, and neck,” the trial brief said. Even as the victim was trying to finish the domain-name transfer on the GoDaddy website, Hopkins “cocked the firearm and stated, ‘If this isn’t right I’m going to blow your fucking head off!'” the trial brief said. That’s when the victim fought back and wrestled the gun away from Hopkins. The domain-name transfer apparently wasn’t completed.
Adams was convicted in April by a jury in US District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. In addition to his 14-year sentence, Adams was “ordered to make nearly $9,000 in restitution” and pay for court costs of nearly $26,000. “Adams had court-appointed counsel during trial, but the court later discovered Adams was earning significant amounts of money while the case was pending,” the press release said.