But now, instead of a victim, the 54-year-old is accused of being the perpetrator.
"Real hate crimes are on the rise,"
Authorities are accusing Joly, who was named Citizen of the Year by the Jackson Citizen Patriot last year, of setting fire to his own home and killing his pets, two dogs and three cats. He has been charged with first-degree arson.
A hearing has been set for
"We determined it pretty quickly to be an arson,"
Hitt said that, initially, some in the community perceived the blaze to be a hate crime. Investigators considered that too, but ruled out the possibility as evidence pointing to Joly came to light.
Hitt declined to offer a motive for the house fire, but acknowledged that some people in
In the higher-profile hate crime case that turned on its head last week, Smollett, a 36-year-old actor on the TV drama "Empire," alleged to
Smollett was arrested on charges that he set up the assault.
Smollett, who is black and gay, said that masked men yelled racial slurs, attacked him, put a rope around his neck and made references to MAGA, the acronym for President
Citizen of the Year
Joly, a transgender man, was touted as Jackon's 2018 citizen of the year by the local newspaper and described as an activist who had endured slights and still re-energized a movement.
He tried to "pass an ordinance in
The newspaper's long profile described the
Joly, the article said, was "born female," but "prefers a masculine pronoun" and has long "been activist-minded even if it was not always openly."
It also mentioned the fire on
In the profile, Joly said that he was "really in shock for quite a while" after the fire. He teared at the thought of his dogs, who perished in the blaze, and organized a weapons training course at a gun range to fight fear.
A few months later, Joly was charged with setting the fire.
Fake hate crimes
In the Joly case, police suspicion was based on a timeline of events, phone records, physical evidence and witness statements. Joly had the "means and opportunity to start the fire," according to a report published by MLive.com in October.
The MLive article said security camera video showed Joly filling a gas can before the fire, gasoline was on his clothing, a witness smelled gas on him, photographs seemed to be missing from the walls, and after the fire, Joly received
"What they have is a coincidence and a coincidence is not proof beyond reasonable doubt," MLive quoted Abood saying. "They are trying to convict on circumstantial evidence and theory when they have no direct evidence in the case."
Still, Cassano said that when presumed victims of hate crimes are actually the perpetrators, "it's terrible for social movements in general" and terrible, specifically, for people "facing real hate crimes."
In 2018 alone, the civil rights advocacy group,
The most recent stats from the
"When someone comes along and fabricates a hate crime it calls into question people who have really experienced these things," Cassano said. "It's absolutely awful. It really, to my mind, is incomprehensible."
Reilly didn't mention the Joly case but made the case in an opinion piece for
The professor said he found more than 400 confirmed hate hoaxes, and he concluded that "what hate hoaxers actually do is worsen generally good race relations, and distract attention from real problems."
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