In the aftermath of the Jussie Smollett incident, a new suspected hate crime hoax is making headlines.
The Detroit News reported this week that transgender Michigan activist Nikki Joly is suspected of burning down his own house. The FBI initially investigated the incident as a hate crime in 2017. Joly, a transgender man who was named Citizen of the Year in 2017 by a local paper for his gay rights advocacy in the conservative town of Jackson, has received threats in the past.
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He has since been arrested. Joly appeared in circuit court to face charges of arson in early February. Five of Joly’s pets died in the fire.
A Jackson police department arson investigation report obtained by MLive /Jackson City Patriot revealed that Joly told officers he believed he and his partner were targeted because a non-discrimination law had recently been approved by the city and the local Pride Parade had just taken place.
Nikki Joly, 54, is accused of faking the August 2017 fire – which killed his two dogs and three cats – because he’d been left bored after the passage of a nondiscrimination law in Jackson, Michigan, where he lives. https://t.co/AV8lPGuvud
— West Chester University College Republicans ?? (@WCUPA_GOP) February 25, 2019
The report also said surveillance camera footage showed Joly filling a five-gallon canister of gas on the day his house burnt down, traces of gasoline were found on clothing he wore the day of the fire, and he gave a five-gallon can of gas to his neighbor days after the blaze. The neighbor found it strange that Joly never asked him to return the gas canister. Police witnesses said the transgender activist had a temper and, if someone didn’t agree with him, he’d often call them a bigot or homophobic.
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According to a police investigative report, two church officials who worked with Joly said he was frustrated that the furor over gay rights had died down with the passage of the non-discrimination ordinance and that a gay pride festival held five days before the fire hadn’t been more heavily protested. One of those church officials, Barbara Shelton, now contest’s the police’s interpretation of her words. She told The Detroit News in an email that she “never heard Nikki comment in any fashion about anything like that.”
Joly’s attorney, Andrew Abood, is similar pushing back on the police’s account. “What they have is a coincidence and a coincidence is not proof beyond reasonable doubt,” he told MLive in October. “They are trying to convict on circumstantial evidence and theory when they have no direct evidence in the case.”
But some, even those who might normally be on the LGBT activist’s side, appear to have already made up their minds. “All that good work is tainted. We know one bad mark outshines a hundred good ones,” Stella Shananaquet, a local woman with a gay son, told The Detroit News. “I’m infuriated someone could tear down the community that way.”
Like in the Smollett case, the controversy ripping through Jackson is sure to infuriate progressives who see these hoax crimes as undercutting a genuine issue facing the country. On the other hand, the Smollett and Joly incidents give more ammunition to conservatives who think that the manufactured nature of these crises reflect the hysteria engendered by liberals desperate to fit reality to the ideological narratives that play out in their heads.
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