A man claiming to have been targeted and beaten because he is gay in events occurring as early as April, has since been determined to have staged the attacks himself.
Going as far as to carve homophobic slurs into his arm, 21-year-old Rick Jones could now face criminal charges for the deceptions, authorities in rural Utah said on June 30.
Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker announced that after further investigation of the series of reported attacks on Jones, officers found inconsistencies in the evidence. The openly gay pizzeria owner from Utah eventually admitted to faking the harassment, said Dekker.
According to The Washington Times, the alleged attacks began in April with a beating in the family pizzeria. The purported assault, in which Jones said someone ambushed him at his family’s restaurant after closing time, left him with head and facial bruising. Jones told CNN the attacker also attempted to pour bleach down his throat and carved the words “die fag” in his arm.
"I was knocked out and then suddenly someone was forcing my legs and hands down and trying to get me to drink bleach," Jones told CNN.
The alleged attacks continued when five days later, his family’s home was found spray-painted with the same slur, reports Daily Mail. On June 10, his home was again reportedly targeted when someone threw a rock and a Molotov cocktail through his bedroom window. The same day, the family restaurant was broken into, robbed and spray-painted.
Jones told a Utah news station earlier this month he believed he was chosen for the attacks because he is gay.
Since the reports have been acknowledged to be a hoax, Dekker says prosecutors are considering charges for Jones, possibly including filing a false report and reckless burning.
Attorney Brett Tolman, who represents Jones, did not deny his client's supposed guilt but explained Jones did not have any criminal intent, and the reports were rather a cry for help. Tolman said Jones didn’t realize the events would garner so much attention and were initially directed toward people close to him, Daily Mail reported.
Jones has since started mental health treatment, the lawyer said.
Following the attacks, Utah’s LGBT community showed support for Jones and raised almost $12,000 toward his medical expenses. Tolman said all donations will be refunded.
Photo credit: Fox 13