A 22-year-old man who reported he was the victim of an alleged hate crime in Missoula during the early morning hours of August 5 has admitted he made the story up. "It has now been determined that the assault did not occur," Missoula Police Lieutenant Scott Brodie said in an August 7 statement.
That same day, Joseph Baken, of Billings, pleaded guilty in Missoula Municipal Court to misdemeanor filing of a false report to law enforcement.
The Tuesday afternoon confession came after the Missoula Independent and law enforcement obtained video showing the alleged victim doing a backflip on Higgins Avenue before landing on his face and sustaining lacerations.
The young man reported to the MPD two days earlier that he was celebrating his birthday at a Main Street bar and, after inquiring about where he could find a gay club, was lured outside and beaten up by three men.
Within 24 hours, the Facebook page Wipe Out Homophobia, which has more than 480,000 "likes" posted a picture of a clearly injured Baken. It drew outrage from across the nation from people decrying homophobic violence. In Missoula, 560 people signed up to attend a pub crawl that aimed to support victims of such violence and make the city safer.
That kind of support for LGBT people is a good thing, says Montana Human Rights Network organizer Jamee Greer. "The city of Missoula should be proud of the way it responded."
Police obtained two different videos that captured Baken’s failed backflip, one of which was provided by the Independent. The videos show an uninjured Baken at 2:30 in the morning—one hour after he told law enforcement that he had been assaulted. Before launching from the Higgins Avenue curb, he said, "For Olympic gold."
Baken was sentenced to 180 days in jail, suspended, and ordered to pay a $300 fine.
A copy of the footage appears below.
Editor's note: This story was updated after Baken pleaded guilty to authorities today.
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