But to Adams’s growing frustration, someone else had snagged the domain name for the phrase. After a years-long effort to persuade owner Ethan Deyo to sell, Adams decided to take it by force instead. A federal jury convicted the now-27-year-old in April of hatching a madcap scheme in which his cousin broke into Deyo’s house to make him transfer the ownership at gunpoint.
On Monday, a judge sentenced Adams to 14 years in prison — the end to a bizarre tale of a wildly successful social media company, its young owner’s obsession with expanding his viral brand and a domain-name standoff that escalated into a bloody break-in.
In court documents, a lawyer representing Adams argued that he displayed a “strong entrepreneurial spirit” that merited a lesser sentence. He took issue with federal authorities’ criticism of the crude nature of the company’s posts, citing Kim Kardashian’s nude photographs as evidence that such content is what viewers want to see.
“The defendant created a social media business that became very popular and profitable,” attorney Raphael M. Scheetz wrote this month. “Creating a successful business does not happen by accident — it took time, an entrepreneurial spirit, and work. The defendant was smart enough to see an opportunity.”
It was in 2015 that Adams saw that opportunity. He created accounts on Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter under the name “State Snaps” and built a following of more than a million people with images of alcohol-soaked antics — or what authorities characterized as “young adults engaged in crude behavior, drunkenness, and nudity.”
Iowa State University officials were not pleased. In a January 2015 segment aired on Des Moines TV station KCCI, Dean of Students Pamela Anthony said State Snaps was bringing a kind of publicity the university did not want.
“We’ve seen the pictures that are there,” she said, “and we are disturbed by them.”
A reporter approached students on campus and held out a microphone while asking them, “Do you do it for State?” Some reacted with bemusement; others seemed dismayed. “I do it for State every day,” one man responded, while a woman said, “No I do not. I have standards.”
Adams appeared in the segment, identifying himself only as “Polo” and defending his company as providing entertainment value. “I mean, we’re college kids here,” he said. People that didn’t like it didn’t have to follow, he added.
State Snaps grew to accept submissions from beyond Iowa State as its tagline became shorthand for all manner of wild high jinks. It would eventually expand into selling merchandise and planning events, as investors who saw value in the brand began pouring money into it. Some thought it could rival the success of companies such as Barstool Sports or Chive, according to a OneZero account of the affair. His empire growing, Adams became convinced he needed DoItForState.com.
But it was taken. Noticing the State Snaps’s takeoff, Deyo had bought the domain name with his brother in January 2015. The two saw it as a way to trade on the burgeoning brand and make easy money, OneZero reported.
“I have DoItForState.com set up with all social media handles im about to take this guys [sic] business over and ride his wave,” Deyo wrote to a friend in a January 2015 text message revealed at trial. “T shirts and other things sold online.”
Adams approached Deyo, who lived in Cedar Rapids, to try to persuade him to sell. But Deyo wouldn’t do it for under $20,000. Between 2015 and 2017, Adams continued pressing Deyo to give up the domain name.
A hint of the violence ahead came after one of Deyo’s friends used the domain name to promote concerts, when, authorities say, Adams sent the friend a message with a gun emoji.
The dispute reached its boiling point in June 2017. Adams directed his cousin, a felon named Sherman Hopkins Jr., to force a handoff. On June 21, Hopkins broke into Deyo’s house with a loaded firearm and a Taser, his head covered with a pantyhose.
He demanded Deyo show him where he kept his computer, then pulled a piece of paper from his pocket. On it were handwritten instructions for changing an Internet domain from one GoDaddy account to another.
Hopkins held the gun against Deyo’s head and ordered him to follow the directions, pistol-whipping and using the Taser on him in the process.
“This better be right,” he said, according to court records. “You better do this right. You know who you stole from. If you go to the police or tell anyone about this, I’ll be back for you.”
But then Deyo managed to get control of the gun, taking a bullet to the leg in the struggle. He shot Hopkins multiple times in the chest and then called 911. Police arrived to find both men bleeding inside the home.
Hopkins survived the shooting and received a 20-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to one count of interference with commerce by threats and violence.
Adams went to trial on the same charges in April. He denied involvement in the crime, claiming that Hopkins acted alone in what his attorney called “an attempt to curry favor” with Adams. Jurors found him guilty after deliberating for only an hour, according to the Justice Department.
He has maintained his innocence and unsuccessfully sought a new trial over the summer. In a stack of letters pleading with the judge to give Adams a lenient sentence, his family and friends cited his good character, college education and two young daughters. They also pointed to his short-lived success.
“My brother has become very admired in the social media community making a name for himself and his business through persistence and hard work,” wrote one of his siblings.
The infamous Instagram account was, at one time, shut down. But, OneZero reported, it has resurfaced. Even as Adams heads to prison, the brand that he started — and that led to his run-in with the law — remains wildly popular.