A Utah man who claimed to be the victim of several dreadful anti-gay hate crimes could face criminal charges after confessing that he staged the attacks himself.
Several weeks ago, 21-year-old Rick Jones from the small town of Delta grabbed national headlines after he said he was assaulted and had “Die Fag” carved into his arm last April while closing up his family’s pizzeria. Following that attack, Jones claimed his home was spray-painted and that somebody threw a Molotov cocktail through his bedroom window. Jones told the local media that he believed he was being targeted due to his homosexuality, and other media outlets quickly picked up the refrain.
In response to these attacks, Jones’ family started a GoFundMe campaign in mid-June that collected nearly $12,000.
But now, police say inconsistencies in the evidence have led them to conclude the person behind these “attacks” was Jones himself. His attorneys say Jones has confessed and asked for the hate crime investigation to be terminated.
Paul Burke, an attorney for Jones, told Gay Salt Lake that his client’s actions were “a cry for help” that grew beyond his control.
“This was a 911 call that was misdirected, but real,” he said.
The Jones’ GoFundMe has been updated to announce that all donations will be returned.
“Rick and his family are grateful for the expressions of support, but cannot accept this generosity,” the page says currently.
Jones hasn’t been charged with any crimes yet, but police say they are considering charges for filing a false police report and reckless burning.
Burke, for his part, has tried to portray the faked attacks as a good thing for the community, telling reporters:
Young LGBT people and others in small communities should feel heartened that their government and citizens will rally around them in a time of need. We need to understand that it is still difficult in our state, especially in rural areas, to get acceptance for our sexual orientation from our churches and our families.
Jones’s stunt adds to the list of highly-publicized anti-gay hate crimes that ended up being hoaxes. In 2011, a University of North Carolina student lied to police, claiming he had been branded on his wrist in an anti-gay attack. In late 2013, waitress and former Marine Dayna Morales attracted national attention when she faked a receipt to make it seem like a Christian couple had stiffed her on a tip due to her sexual orientation. The couple subsequently sued her and the restaurant she worked for. More recently, a Baltimore woman’s effort to raise money after an anonymous neighbor attacked her “relentlessly gay” lawn decorations has been questioned as a possible hoax.
This report, by Blake Neff, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.