University of North Carolina Student Admits Anti-Gay Attack Was A Hoax

The University of North Carolina community has been traumatized by a report that a gay student, Quinn Matney, was attacked and burned in an anti-gay incident. The college freshman says that a man called him an anti-homosexual term and burned his hand with a piece of hot metal while he was standing on the bridge.

Chancellor Holden Thorp has issued a statement that “The Department of Public Safety has determined that the alleged aggravated assault … did not occur. That report, filed with campus police on April 5, was false.”

As the University moved to deal with the hate crime, Matney’s father, David Matney, a lawyer in Asheville, said his son suffered tendon and ligament damage. A picture of the burn can be found in the article below.

The false report will likely cost this student dearly — likely leading to expulsion (or al least a suspension). It is also a setback for gay and lesbian students who face serious threats and discrimination.

Source: News Observer

41 thoughts on “University of North Carolina Student Admits Anti-Gay Attack Was A Hoax”

  1. Mespo, you argue my reasoning for so-called “black and white” enforcement of laws and then proceed to say:

    “To ignore those factors is sheer stupidity in my estimation and no society in history has ever done so or enforced the pristine universal egalitarianism you naively seem to advocate.”

    You are exactly why I enforce strict laws with little room for “interpretation” and “discretion”.

    You argue that because I have a different viewpoint, I epitomize sheer stupidity and naivety?

    Do you practice law in a courtroom? Has calling opposing counsel a “doo-doo head” ever worked for you?

    There is a reason people want a dispassionate legal system. I personally do not trust people acting on emotions to try a case. Last thing I would want is for you to be my judge because you seem to interject your emotions into discussions of a legal matter.

    But hey. Prosecutors always seem to exercise fair judgement in cases involving cops. That’s why they are prosecuted less often and for lower sentences.

    Answer me this. You mention special standards with rape. Fair but rape is not a hate crime which is what we are discussing. Rape is often more about power than sex. Why are these not considered hate crimes? They target a specific group of people so as to establish dominance over them?

    You also mention senior citizens and children. Crimes against them are not hate crimes.

    Problem with discretion is that there are thousands of prosecutors and judges in this country. If they had to enforce laws in a similar fashion we could dodge the inevitable incompetence in their ranks (unless you believe 100% are geniuses).

  2. James,

    I’m not suggesting kowtowing to anybody. Merely promoting that maximizing the perception of equity is important to fostering a respect for the rule of law. Education is obviously not enough. Equity in action speaks louder than words. I think we agree on the goal – discouraging class based (in the broadest sense of the terms) crimes – but just not on the methodology.

  3. BIL,

    Then I think we may disagree more fully than I realized. I think hate crimes need to be pursued and punished more forcefully than similar crimes committed because of greed or anger because hate crimes have effects that reach far more widely.

    I understand your point about the perception of preferential treatment, but I see czech80 and pete’s opinions on hate crimes as demonstrating a need for education on the history of lynching and the effects it has on a community. I reject as invalid the perception that hate crimes are our justice system preferring certain classes of people. There’s a good reason to have laws against hate crimes — we shouldn’t kowtow to those who scream “reverse racism” without understanding the law.

  4. mespo,

    It comes back to me as a matter of respect for the rule of law.

    We have a marked lack of it in this country and with good reason consider how our own leaders political and corporate have been regularly breaking laws in a brazen manner and go unpunished – sometimes even rewarded. Committing crimes that if the average citizen committed they would be thrown in the pokey never to see the sun and a free person again. And we all are familiar with my stance on what two-tiered legal systems and a systemically induced lack of respect for the rule law leads to historically.

    In the grand schema, the perception of preferential treatment is a bad thing. The minor schema, the application of hate crimes and the perception of preferential treatment they create is a minor annoyance compared to letting Cheney and Bush get away with treason and Wall St. criminals like Jamie Dimon walk free. But it does create that perception and I think pete’s sarcastic remark evidences that. I suppose in the grand scheme, not using the hate crime method versus my proposed more invisible method is a bit like trying to stop a bleeding femoral artery with a band-aid. But perceptions are important. The manipulation of perceptions is precisely the mechanic of propaganda and the Big Lie. We should not only avoid impropriety but the appearance of impropriety. Therein lies the heart of my resistance to hate crimes as discrete crimes. It’s not their motivation or the mechanic so much as the appearance of preferential treatment that many people derive from them – rightfully so or not.

    Equity can be a harsh mistress.

  5. pete:

    “true
    you don’t want the killer of a homeless person to be treated with the same severity as the killer of someone who matters.”

    ****************************

    I think we’ve made the observation that simply because we punish the dmurder of one person more than another doesn’t mean the value of either are implicated. The point is the deterence of the more likely victim and the maintenance of order. Like the homeless man, the murder of an ex-Supreme Court justice would be treated in some states less severely than a police office performing his duties. What of it? We make no qualitative judgments about the “value” of each life, merely the need for enhanced deterence in the case of the officer.

  6. BIL:

    We are skinning the same cat and we all agree it needs skinning. I prefer the discrete crimes method to take prosecutorial discretion out of the mix but Buddha’s system works just as well in the abstract. James M’s point seems to align with mine that the discrete crime insures the making of a symbolic point that we will not tolerate this type of crime and that we recognize the harsher effects of these deeds on those ethnic groups needing such protection. I have no problem treating different factions differently under the law if a compelling state interest exists. Here I see such a need but reasonable people can differ here … and obviously so.

  7. James M./mespo,

    I think pete’s comment illustrates my point. Whether “hate crimes” merit special recognition by the law isn’t the point as I think we all agree they do but simply differ on the mechanism for the law to recognize the circumstance and punish accordingly. However, giving them the status of a discrete crime creates – and I feel unnecessarily so – a perception of bias and inequity in the laws. That the bias represents a positive bias is irrelevant when compared to the net effect.

    While mens rea is a critical component of differentiating the charges of murder from manslaughter, evidence of a hate crime – although it goes to mens rea – should be viewed and treated as a aggravating circumstance that prosecutors treat like they treat the use of a gun during the commission of certain crimes. Aggravating circumstances on their face once proven. Given the huge (and valid) perception of legal inequity already plaguing the country due to the malfeasance of Congress at the behest of their corporate masters, do we really need mechanisms that foster this perception when we have alternatives available that can accomplish the same ends?

    To address James M’s concerns, while I agree that the prosecution cannot totally be relied upon, such failures happen already for a variety of reasons and for these types of crimes, simply defining the aggravating behaviors as a matter of law can go a long way to mitigating prosecutorial mis- or malfeasance. For example: commission of a crime where symbols traditionally associated with hateful and bigoted crimes of the past (such as trappings associated with the KKK or the Nazis) are used to invoke fear? Aggravating circumstance. Where a pattern of attacks upon a single racial or ethnic groups, or a pattern of attacks that span these groups such as a pattern of attacking blacks and Jews, can be established? Aggravating circumstance.

  8. czech80
    1, April 13, 2011 at 4:15 pm

    I love living in a country where 2 people from the same walks of life can be killed on the same day in the same jurisdiction by the same guy but their killer can receive a different sentence for each crime because of a hate crime possibility in one situation.

    ====================================================

    true
    you don’t want the killer of a homeless person to be treated with the same severity as the killer of someone who matters.

  9. BIL,

    I don’t have a problem treating a hate crime motivation as an agrevating factor for sentencing, rather than a separate section of the criminal code, but I’m not sure how you’d enforce your limits on prosecutorial discretion. Presumably you’re relying on the judge to enforce the limits (certainly the prosecutor and the defense counsel can’t be absolutely relied upon, since in the scenario where the limit would come into play, both parties want to agree to a plea deal), but unless the crime has garnered media attention, the judge won’t know any of the underlying facts of the case. It would be easy to come up with a truthful allocution that never mentions the fact that this was a hate crime.

  10. Like mespo, I support prosecuting hate crimes as such. The key for me is the effect hate crimes have on a community, over and above the normal effects of the underlying crime. A crime of greed or passion effects an individual or a family, but a crime motivated by race or sexual orientation is an attack designed to cow an entire class of people. Our history is unfortunately filled with a slew of examples of those tactics working, keeping blacks “in their place” and gays in the closet.

    We all take our chances with street level or random crime, but no one should have to live in fear of getting lynched because of who they are.

    Prosecuting hate crimes as such, rather than treating them as ordinary assaults or murders, acknowledges the broader effect the crime has on a whole community. We punish it more severely because it is a more damaging crime.

  11. BIL:

    ” why not make the circumstance currently applied to hate crimes aggravating circumstances that limits prosecutions ability to offer and accept plea bargains?”

    ***************

    As usual, our ideas revolve around the same principle if not in the same orbital plane. I have no problem whatsoever with your approach as a substitute. I am sure you agree that in the area of criminal law intention is the key thing we look at to determine both criminality and the punishment. If not, why differentiate between manslaughter and murder or first and second degree murder, or even negligence and criminal conduct.

    The important feature is the clear message of societal disgust with this motivation for these crimes not the categorization.

  12. mespo,

    You and I agree on many things. This isn’t going to be one of them. My approach is simply this: 99% of the crimes labeled “hate crimes” are already crimes in and of themselves. Accordingly, the best way to approach an egalitarian society isn’t to try to regulate an individual’s emotions – a practical impossibility – but rather to ensure better and more consistent prosecution for the crimes that are already on the book. I’m not suggesting removing prosecutorial discretion on the whole to accomplish this end either. What I’m suggesting is that instead of creating a new class of crimes, why not make the circumstance currently applied to hate crimes aggravating circumstances that limits prosecutions ability to offer and accept plea bargains? To me, that would seem to accomplish the same end and not create a situation where motive can be a source of prosecutorial abuse for crimes where motive is otherwise irrelevant to the elements of the crime.

  13. czech80:

    “How people cannot understand that treating groups of people differently than each other does nothing but foster differences is beyond me.”

    *****************

    It is likely because you fail to accept any differences in the law’s application to any particular group or circumstance. It’s called “black or white thinking” on your part, and something we work hard to dissipate on this blog. The law affords different protections for many groups with hardly a mention of criticism. Take for example children, or senior citizens, or the infirmed the mentally ill, rape victims, and even the dead– all have customized laws to address their victimizers and all are afforded different ways to vindicate their rights involving greater protections than other societal groups. Sometimes it means permitting a child not to directly confront their abuser in court, or permitting heresay evidence to be used when the victim cannot or will not speak. Sometimes it involves a legal presumption, or shielding the victim’s prior sexual history from scrutiny, or special corroboration of aserted facts as in the Dead Man’s Act. It is an acknowledgment that certain groups are more likely victims to wrongs caused by their particular susceptibilities. To ignore those factors is sheer stupidity in my estimation and no society in history has ever done so or enforced the pristine universal egalitarianism you naively seem to advocate.

    As a society we have decided that particularly heinous motivations (mens rea) such as those which permeate hate crimes (which tear at the social fabric) deserve enhanced tracking and “unequal” enhanced punishment. It’s no different than punishing certain crimes as capital crimes when the same resulting harm would not be considered for the ultimate punishment though murder may be involved in each case. For example, we tend to punish the death of law enforcement officers while in the performance of their duties with the death penalty as opposed to punishment for the murder of other citizens as a way to deter violent crimes against law enforcement whose particular job makes such attacks quite likely. Unequal protection indeed, but it doesn’t mean we value the lives of police more or the lives of others less. We are simply forcfully stating as a societal norm that we will not tolerate that type of crime for impportant social reasons of detering the crime and keeping citizens willing to take those critical jobs. These are compelling state interests just as important as insuring that minorities are able to pursue their happiness free from those who would deny them that merely because of race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, or ethnicity.

  14. czech80,

    A very sensible and well thought out post.

    Besides, without the thought police, who is going to enforce a prohibition on an emotion?

  15. Hate crimes are a great piece of legislation. They simply guarantee that a I tell an individual how much I love them and whatever group they belong to prior to victimizing them.

    To be fair. Sarcasm, irony, and other literary devices are easily proven during legal proceedings so such laws are very useful.

    As for this particular case, I love how people give this kid the benefit of the doubt as they do in all similar cases. Oh, he still needs our support and he was just bringing up an important issue.

    His actions could’ve led to massive repercussions for innocent people (Duke, cough, cough). He is a disgrace to his “own community” (I say mankind yet others seem to prefer further segregation) and creates a crying wolf situation.

    I love living in a country where 2 people from the same walks of life can be killed on the same day in the same jurisdiction by the same guy but their killer can receive a different sentence for each crime because of a hate crime possibility in one situation.

    How people cannot understand that treating groups of people differently than each other does nothing but foster differences is beyond me.

  16. This is why I hate April Fools, it such a ridiculous holiday since everyone has to keep pushing the envelope. I know this hoax wasn’t perpetuated because of April Fools, but I still have a suspicion that it was. Anyway, what’s with all the hate crime related hoaxes lately, next you’re going to tell me that kid in New York didn’t really commit a hate crime either: http://lawblog.legalmatch.com/2011/04/08/why-children-should-not-be-charged-with-hate-crimes/

  17. mespo said, “I would need considerably more proof before labeling the UNC community –or any part thereof — as homophobic.”

    I concur.

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