A Missouri man was sentenced in federal court on Thursday for committing a hate crime in which he attempted to kill a gay teenager by shooting the youth eight times.
Malachi Robinson, 25, of Kansas City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Brian Wimes to 21 years and 10 months in prison, without parole, for the bias-motivated shooting.
Robinson, who has been in federal custody since being indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2021, pleaded guilty last July to one count of violating the federal Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
By pleading guilty, he admitted to shooting the then-16-year-old victim, identified in court as “M.S.,” with a Taurus 9-millimeter pistol in an attempt to kill the youth because of his sexual orientation.
According to the facts of the indictment, following a chance meeting at the Kansas City Public Library on May 29, 2019, Robinson and M.S. talked briefly over Facebook Messenger before meeting outside the library. Surveillance footage of the area showed the youth beginning to walk away, but being followed by Robinson. Robinson catches up to the youth, and the two walk together for a while before stopping near a wooded area.
Prosecutors claimed that Robinson allegedly suggested that the two walk further into the wooded area under the guise of finding a place to engage in a sex act. Around the same time, Robinson wrote separately to his girlfriend that he “might shoot this boy” because of the youth’s sexual orientation.
Robinson and M.S. entered the wooded area together, but the youth changed his mind and turned to leave, when Robinson pulled out his pistol and fired repeatedly at the youth. M.S. was able to get up and onto a sidewalk in front of the woods, moving along the sidewalk until collapsing in front of a nearby apartment building. A bystander called 911, and emergency medical technicians transported M.S. to a local hospital in critical condition.
In total, M.S. sustained eight gunshot wounds, spending two weeks in the hospital as he tried to recover from his injuries. He has undergone multiple surgeries and physical therapy, but still has several bullets inside his body.
According to prosecutors, Robinson fled the scene of the crime, running toward his apartment building and seeking to avoid arrest. Later that day, and in the days following the shooting, he allegedly told others that he shot M.S. due to the teen’s sexual orientation.
Teresa Moore, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, said in a statement that the sentence handed down for the crime brings “a measure of justice” to the 16-year-old victim, as well as to the broader LGBTQ community.
“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,” Moore said. “Our entire community must stand together against acts of violence motivated by hatred for any group of people. The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the civil rights of all citizens and prosecuting those who illegally threaten those rights.”
“This sentencing validates that bias-motivated crimes will not be tolerated and demonstrates law enforcement’s continued commitment to aggressively investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these heinous crimes,” Special Agent in Charge Charles Dayoub of the FBI’s Kansas City Field Office, said in a statement.
“To target an individual, lure them and shoot them multiple times for no other reason than their perceived sexual orientation is reprehensible. … Every individual has the right to live without fear of being attacked or harassed, regardless of their sexual orientation,” Dayoub added.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, noted that recent FBI data shows that anti-LGBTQ hate crimes remain a problem, and expressed hope that the severity of Robinson’s sentence would deter others from carrying out similar acts.
In 2021, there were over 10,500 single-bias incidents of hate crimes, according to statistics from the FBI. Nationally, reported hate crime incidents increased by 11.6%, from 8,210 in 2020 to 9,065 in 2021. Out of approximately 12,411 hate crime victims in 2021, about 15.9%, or 1,973 victims, were targeted because of their sexual orientation, and an additional 3.2%, or 397 victims, were targeted due to their gender identity.
“This defendant’s sentence holds him accountable for the violent and callous hate crime perpetrated against a defenseless teenager targeted because of their LGBTQ+ status,” Clarke said in a statement. “Bias motivated misconduct has no place in our country, and the Justice Department is committed to working with our federal, state, and local partners to vigorously pursue justice for victims targeted because of their sexual orientation.”
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