SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who said that someone had beaten him and carved a gay slur into his arm staged the attacks, authorities in rural Utah said Tuesday.
Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Rick Jones, 21, could face charges after officers investigating the series of reported attacks found inconsistencies in the evidence. The Delta man eventually acknowledged faking the harassment, Sheriff Dekker said.
Brett Tolman, an attorney for Mr. Jones, didn’t deny the sheriff’s claim, saying the reports were a cry for help initially directed toward people close to his client. But Mr. Jones didn’t realize how much attention they would get, the lawyer said.
“I think it’s such good evidence of the difficulties members of the gay community deal with, and some make better choices than others,” Mr. Tolman said.
Mr. Jones has since begun mental health treatment, the lawyer said.
The purported attacks began with a beating at his family’s pizza business in April that left Mr. Jones with head and facial bruising and the words “die fag” carved in his arm.
Five days later, the family’s home was found spray-painted with the same slur. On June 10, a rock and a molotov cocktail were thrown through the window of the home. That same day, the business was spray-painted, broken into and robbed of $1,000.
Mr. Jones told KSL-TV earlier this month he believed he was targeted because he is gay.
Sheriff Dekker said prosecutors are considering possible charges including filing a false report and reckless burning.
Mr. Tolman, the defense attorney, said his client didn’t have any criminal intent and the outpouring of support after the accusations became public still was a good message.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox publicly declared his support after the accusations were reported.
Mr. Cox said Tuesday that he’s relieved that the accusations weren’t authentic, but he’s concerned for Mr. Jones and his family and hopes they find “peace and healing.”