A Missouri man who lured a teenager into a wooded area and shot him eight times because of his sexual orientation, causing serious and lingering injuries, was sentenced on Thursday to nearly 22 years in prison, the Justice Department said.
The man, Malachi Robinson, 25, of Kansas City, Mo., pleaded guilty last summer to a federal hate crime, admitting that he had tried to murder the then-16-year-old victim, identified in court records only as M.S., who spent two weeks in a hospital, underwent multiple surgeries and still has bullets inside of him, according to prosecutors.
Judge Brian C. Wimes of Federal District Court in Western Missouri sentenced Mr. Robinson to 262 months in federal prison without parole for violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law named after victims of hate crimes that expanded protections for victims of violent acts based on actual or perceived disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
Mr. Robinson and M.S. had met at the Kansas City Public Library in 2019, prosecutors said, and later went to a wooded area nearby “under the guise of looking for a place to engage in a sex act.” But M.S. changed his mind and turned to leave, prompting Mr. Robinson to pull out his pistol and fire repeatedly at M.S., according to court records.
“This significant penalty brings a measure of justice to the young victim and to the larger LGBTQI+ community,” Teresa Moore, a U.S. attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a statement on Thursday.
Jeffrey Alan Gedbaw, a lawyer for Mr. Robinson, did not immediately respond to an email and call seeking comment on Thursday.
The sentencing of Mr. Robinson came as hate crimes continue to plague the country. In 2021, the last year for which statistics are available, the F.B.I. documented about 8,700 victims of hate crimes, including about 1,680 victims of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity. Those totals were a slight decrease from 2020, when the agency tallied about 11,000 victims of hate crimes, including about 2,500 victims of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity.
The F.B.I. noted that a shift in how it collected data in 2021 may have contributed to the slight decrease, since some law enforcement agencies did not submit data on time.
The U.C.L.A. School of Law reported last year that “L.G.B.T. people are nine times more likely than non-L.G.B.T. people to be victims of violent hate crimes.” The school also found that L.G.B.T. violent hate crime victims are more likely to be younger.
On May 29, 2019, M.S. approached Mr. Robinson in the Kansas City Public Library and asked if he could friend him on Facebook, according to Mr. Robinson’s plea agreement.
They began talking over Facebook that day. M.S. “inquired about Robinson’s sexual orientation, making suggestive comments about meeting up in the bathroom of the library to engage in a sexual act,” the plea agreement states.
Mr. Robinson replied that he was “not gay,” but that if they did something, it would have to be outside the library, court records state. As Mr. Robinson messaged back and forth with M.S., he was also texting his girlfriend at the time, saying that he “might shoot this boy” if he tried to do a sexual act, according to the plea agreement. Mr. Robinson and M.S. then walked out of the library, the plea agreement states, citing surveillance footage.
“M.S. believed that they were looking for a place to carry out the act, as M.S. had offered Robinson $5.00 if he were to engage in oral sex,” prosecutors wrote.
Mr. Robinson suggested that they go to a wooded area nearby, but before any sex act or exchange of money occurred, M.S. turned around to leave the woods, court records state. That was the moment Mr. Robinson pulled out a Taurus 9-millimeter handgun and shot the teenager three times in his chest, three times in his right arm, once in his buttocks and once in his right hand, which almost detached his finger, prosecutors said.
M.S. managed to escape but eventually collapsed in front of a nearby apartment building, where a bystander called 911, and police officers and emergency medical services responded, court records state.
Mr. Robinson later told someone over Facebook a few weeks after the episode that he had shot someone because that person “was being gay,” the plea agreement states. He was arrested five days after the shooting, on June 3, 2019.
“To ambush and shoot an unwitting victim, who posed no threat to him, for no other reason than his sexual orientation is reprehensible behavior that won’t be tolerated,” Ms. Moore said.