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Maryland man indicted for allegedly targeting gay men at D.C. park

Cyber Extortion Scheme
Posted at 11:09 AM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 13:11:35-04

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of Justice announced Thursday that a Maryland man accused of impersonating as a federal officer and assaulting gay men in a Washington, D.C., park was indicted by a federal grand jury on hate crime charges.

Michael Thomas Pruden is accused of assaulting five men five separate times between 2018 to 2021 "with a chemical irritant" at Meridian Hill Park, the Justice Department said.

According to the indictment, the park is "informally known in the Washington, D.C. community as a meeting place for men seeking consensual sex with other men."

The Department of Justice said Pruden was indicted on five counts of assault on federal land, one count of impersonating a federal officer, and hate crimes sentencing enhancement alleging the 48-year-old "assaulted four of the victims because of their perceived sexual orientation."

According to the indictment, Pruden allegedly posed as a Parks police officer, shined a flashlight in their faces, then gave them "police-style directives" just before attacking the victims.

He was arrested Thursday in Norfolk, Virginia, officials said.

The department said Pruden faces a maximum sentence of 10 years for each assault count, which the hate crimes sentencing enhancement could increase, and a maximum sentence of three years for impersonating a federal officer.