CEO of SoftBank-backed startup Banjo resigns after hidden neo-Nazi past surfaces
Damien Patton has stepped down as CEO of neighborhood watch startup Banjo after court documents connecting him to a 1990 synagogue shooting resurfaced last month.
Patton testified that he was involved with a KKK group in Tennessee as a teenager, and pled guilty to driving a gunman to a drive-by shooting at a Nashville synagogue at age 17.
The state of Utah suspended a $20 million contract with Banjo after Patton's past was unearthed by OneZero last month. Patton announced his resignation Monday.
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The CEO of a crime-monitoring startup resigned on Monday after his own involvement in a series of hate crimes was revealed last month.
Damien Patton will step down from Banjo, he announced in a blog post Monday. Last month, OneZero dug up old court documents and news articles from the 1990s that revealed Patton had been a KKK member and previously pled guilty to aiding a drive-by synagogue shooting at age 17.
Following OneZero's reporting, the state of Utah suspended a $20.1 million contract with Banjo signed in 2019.
Patton testified in a 1992 trial that he was part of a white supremacist group who "believe that the Blacks and the Jews are taking over America, and it's our job to take America back for the White race." Patton pled guilty to "juvenile delinquency" for driving a KKK member armed with a pistol to a Nashville synagogue, where the gunman shot out the building's front windows, according to a 1992 article in The Tennessean .
After OneZero's investigation was published, Patton apologized in a statement to Business Insider, disavowing his past ties to the KKK and claiming that he sought refuge in white supremacist groups after being abused as a child.
But Patton never mentioned his violent history during his years as the public-facing head of Banjo. He founded Banjo in 2010, and the AI-powered crime reports tool went on to raise over $120 million from backers including SoftBank. Patton garnered media coverage from outlets including The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times , but his criminal history didn't surface until last month, due in part to the fact that his last name was misspelled on two court filings.
In the blog post announcing his resignation, Patton said he will be replaced by the company's current CTO, Justin Lindsey.
"I am confident Banjo's greatest days are still ahead, and will do everything in my power to ensure our mission succeeds," Patton said. "However, under the current circumstances, I believe Banjo's best path forward is under different leadership."
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