Illustration for article titled Influencer Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison After Domain Hijacking at Gunpoint Goes Awry
Image: KCCI 8

We give you our modern-day Macbeth, a 27-year-old man who once sat on an empire of dumb college memes and now, after a domain name hijacking that ended in bloodshed, pays the price of 14 years in federal prison and $35,000. Was it all worth it, Mr. Adams?, we ask, as we now reflect on the nature of the United States in 2019.

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The facts of the case are as follows: by 2015, Rossi Lorathio Adams II, from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, had amassed a kingdom of trash via user-submitted college drinking videos. His company State Snaps LLC aggregated posts marked #DoItForState (a college version of “Do It for the Vine”)–such hijinks as a man drinking Corona through a woman’s butt cheeks on the beach–via various social media accounts and DoIt4State.com, with sponsorships, merchandising and events. A poster for a 2017 party advertises: “18+ to cum, 21+ to swallow.” Here’s a still-active Twitter account for the platform, if you must.

A riveting feature by OneZero reports that Adams, aka “Polo,” started State Snaps at Iowa State University before dropping out in 2014. He was both a fashion-obsessed entrepreneur with an audience of over one million social media followers and the scourge of Iowa State University, garnering unflattering local news coverage on KCCI 8.

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Adams’s descent into madness seems to have catalyzed around the beginning of 2015, when brothers Chris and Ethan Deyo set out to undercut the #DoItForState fortune by registering the domain DoItForState.com. Court documents cited by OneZero show that Ethan had texted a party promoter friend: “I have DoItForState.com set up with all social media handles im [sic] about to take this guys [sic] business over and ride his wave. T shirts and other things sold online.”

Months later, Adams tracked Ethan’s home address from a trademark filing and showed up, unannounced. Deyo refused to sell, according to a government trial brief, and OneZero writes that in June 2015, the brothers met Adams at a Buffalo Wild Wings with an offer to barter for a cut of the business.

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The men parted ways without a treaty, and a bitter war ensued. Summer turned to winter, months turned to years, and Adams and his business partner’s multiple attempts to contact the brothers went unanswered. At some point in the process, the Deyo brothers put up an unacceptably high asking price of $20,000. Around Mother’s Day in 2017, Adams again appeared at Ethan Deyo’s home unannounced. From court documents:

Defendant stated, “I’m here for the name whatever it takes. I’m not leaving without it.” Defendant also made a fist and punched his hand. Defendant was wearing a “State Snaps” shirt.

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He could have walked away peacefully that day—perhaps contacted a copyright attorney. Instead, he set in motion a plot for an armed robbery which went horribly awry due to a tenuous understanding of how domain transfers work.

Adams enlisted his cousin, felon Sherman Hopkins, Jr., for the job. In the court documents’ telling, Hopkins burst into the house with a taser and firearm, wearing a hat, pantyhose on his head, and sunglasses, shouting “Come here motherfucker!” Hopkins chased Ethan into his bedroom, pistol-whipped and tased him several times and ordered him to make the transfer.

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Hopkins attempted a bank robbery of sorts, forcing Deyo to sit at his computer and handing him a note with handwritten directions for how to transfer a GoDaddy account with Adams’s account information on it. (Deyo had previously worked for GoDaddy. At this point, OneZero reports that Hopkins told him: “Okay, motherfucker. GoDaddy.com.”)

Deyo asked Hopkins for a physical address, which is necessary to transfer domains; “you don’t need no fucking address,” Hopkins replied. What Hopkins and Adams also didn’t know is that GoDaddy transfers can take up to seven business days, and Adams was waiting in a nearby parking lot, apparently expecting an update to pop up on his phone. With Hopkins addled (in Deyo’s testimony) Deyo grabbed hold of the firearm. Hopkins shot Deyo in the leg, Deyo shot Hopkins several times in the chest. Hopkins survived and will now serve 20 years in federal prison.

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Adams later argued in court that a domain is not “property,” and therefore he could not be charged. The court rejected that argument, and today, the Iowa Department of Justice announced that he’ll be spending 14 years in prison without parole for conspiracy to interfere with commerce by force, threats, and violence.

Tl;dr: in war, there are no winners. As of this writing, DoItForState.com is a white space, void of floating beer pong tables of senior weeks past. Neither the Deyos’s nor Adams’s attorney were available for comment.

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Also tl;dr: call a GoDaddy representative before hijacking a domain.

Staff reporter, Gizmodo. wkimball @ gizmodo

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