Unfinished Lives

Remembering LGBT Hate Crime Victims

Alleged Missoula Gay Bashing Fabricated: Breaking News

Joseph Baken, 22, from Billings, Montana, filed a false police report alleging injuries from a hate crime in Missoula on August 5 that he fabricated. Many on social media believed him, and are now retracting their stories.

Missoula, Montana – The birthday gay  bashing publicized across the web in Missoula turned out to be a false report.  The web went viral with the story, which was also carried on Unfinished Lives, of “Joseph,” who claimed to have been beaten by three men outside a popular club in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning.  Joseph asserted that he was attacked by slur-shouting men because he asked where a gay club was in the area, so he could celebrate his 22nd birthday there.  Now, thanks to the Missoula Independent story circulating yesterday, we know Joseph’s claims to be false.

The facts of the case appear now to be that the alleged victim, Joseph Baken, 22, from Billings, actually sustained his bruises and other injuries doing a backflip on Higgins Avenue in downtown Missoula.  The Independent has posted a video of the accident, which is also in the possession of the Missoula Police Department.  Baken devised the story of the gay bashing to coverup his self-generated wounds. In the video of the backflip, Baken, who was apparently miming an Olympic athlete, stands backward on the curb, executes the flip, and lacerates his face upon landing.  His audience, off-screen, tell him he “nailed it.”  In fact, he chose to trivialize the violence done to thousands of gay and lesbian people by childishly seeking sympathy for an attack that did not occur.

In breaking news, Joseph Baken pleaded guilty on August 7 to charges of filing a false police report.  Missoula Municipal Court sentenced him to 180 days in jail and a $300 fine.  The judge suspended the jail time.

The Unfinished Lives Team apologizes to our readers for publishing its earlier story on this incident, and commends the Missoula Police Department for investigating and uncovering this fabricated story. Thanks to our reader, Steven Haines, for the link to the Missoula Independent. Here is a link to Andy Towle’s update on the story on Towleroad, as well.

August 8, 2012 Posted by | Anglo Americans, false report, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, LGBTQ, Montana | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gay Montana Man Bashed On His Birthday: Updated with Breaking News

Joseph, 22-year-old hate crime victim, told by Missoula, Montana authorities that his injuries warrant only a misdemeanor charge.

Missoula, Montana – Breaking News: Joseph Baken, 22, aka “Joseph,” in this widely reported news story on the web, has pleaded guilty to filing a false police report in Missoula Municipal Court, and has been sentenced to jail time and a fine.  His injuries were self-inflicted, and his gay bashing account was fabricated.  See the new post on this development here.  The Unfinished Lives Team retracts its previous story, which is posted below. 

A 22-year-old gay man was invited outside a Missoula club Saturday night, and then ridiculed, called a “faggot,” and beaten by three men for asking where he could find a gay bar to celebrate his birthday.  Missoula Police say that the young man, identified only as Joseph, did not have severe enough injuries to warrant more than a misdemeanor charge for the attack.  The LGBTQ community in Big Sky Country and around the nation has arisen in outrage over the trivialization of what thousands are now calling a hate crime attack.  In an angry comment posted on Wipe Out Homophobia’s Facebook page, a woman writes, “Nobody deserves this, especially not just because of your sexuality. Stay strong, Joseph!  Half a million of us are on your side!”

The Missoulan reports that Missoula police are not treating this case as a hate crime, despite the anti-gay slurs, the gang-type attack, and the severity of the bruises Joseph received.  According to investigators, Joseph reported the attack at 4:30 a.m. Sunday morning after managing to get back to his home. At least one Montana lawmaker is taking this attack seriously.  Representative Ellie Hill, (D)-Missoula, said sexual orientation must now be added to the state’s legal code. “It’s time, regardless of what side of the aisle you sit on,” she said. “What occurred over the weekend in Missoula evidences it.” Rep. Hill pledged to introduce a bill to that effect in the 2013 session of the state legislature.

Missoula has an anti-bias statute on the books banning discrimination against gay people, but the state does not. Critics of the police say that any assault is a greater crime than a misdemeanor, and, in this case, indications are clear that the attackers assaulted their victim expressly because he said he was gay, and was seeking a place where other gay people congregated.  KAJ18.com says authorities are soft-pedaling this crime, justifying their attitude by pointing to the time Joseph reported the assault–three hours after it occurred.  They also say that his failure to call 911 at the time of the attack supports their misdemeanor decision.

Gay activists around the nation are ginning up pressure on local and state authorities, reminding them that hate crimes by their very nature leave victims terrified and disoriented.  Joseph had to get himself to the safety of his home despite his injuries, before he felt safe enough to call the police.  Instead of supporting a young man who was only looking to have a good time on his birthday, something straight people do all the time, the Missoula police seem to think the minimum of response is allowable for a gay person in their town. Back 2 Stonewall, a widely-read LGBTQ activist web site, responds, “We do not deserve to be second-class citizens…even in Missoula f***ing Montana!”

August 7, 2012 Posted by | Anti-LGBT hate crime, Back 2 Stonewall, Beatings and battery, gay bashing, gay men, GLBTQ, Hate Crimes, Heterosexism and homophobia, LGBTQ, Montana, Slurs and epithets, Social Justice Advocacy, Unsolved LGBT Crimes, Wipe Out Homophobia | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments


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