A Petaluma man who apparently admitted to knowing he was chatting up and hooking up with a 15-year-old on the gay hookup app Grindr was arrested Wednesday and booked on charges related to sexual activity with that minor. The 23-year-old suspect, identified by police as Alexander Battaglia, was taken into custody after a month-long investigation into the matter, according to KRON 4.
Battaglia was charged with oral copulation with a minor, communication with a minor with the intent to engage in sex acts, sodomy by an adult with a minor, and with meeting the teen at a specific location to engage in sex acts.
It's unclear how police honed in on Battaglia, but as ABC 7 reports, he also admitted to exchanging explicit photos and messages with other minors on the app as well.
Petaluma police ask that anyone with information regarding the allegations against Battaglia, or potential victims, may contact them at (707) 778-4444.
Grindr makes users "affirm" that they are over the age of 18 (or 17, which is the age of consent in the UK, or 21 which is the age limit elsewhere), however there is no requirement for the user to prove their age, and teens frequently download the app to get their first taste of the online gay world. In one case from two years ago in Utah, a 13-year-old boy pretended to be 18 and snuck a man into a hotel room he was sharing with his parents while traveling. After having sex with the man in the bathroom, the boy's father saw the man leave the room, and called police. He was ultimately arrested along with another man the teen had lured to the hotel.
In another case in Britain, about eight years ago, a 24-year-old man began taking out a 13-year-old boy who had messaged him in order only to talk. The boy later concluded, after they had had sex, that the man was only "grooming" him, and the man was prosecuted and put on a sex offenders registry. "There needs to be something done so that when you do download [Grindr], you can prove the age you actually are," said the victim in that case.
In yet another case, last year, gay adult film star Mike Dozer was sentenced to 17.5 years for statutory rape of a 14-year-old boy he met on the app Jack'd. That same teen had been involved in cases involving multiple adult men in several states whom he met on dating apps, one of whom took his own life before standing trial.