SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A man who reported someone beat him and carved a homophobic slur into his arm staged the attacks, authorities in rural Utah said Tuesday.
Millard County Sheriff Robert Dekker said Rick Jones, 21, could face charges after officers investigating the series of reported attacks found inconsistencies in the evidence. The Delta man eventually acknowledged faking the harassment, Dekker said.
Brett Tolman, an attorney for Jones, said the reports were a cry for help initially directed toward people close to him, and Jones didn't realize how much attention they would get.
"I think it's such good evidence of the difficulties members of the gay community deal with, and some make better choices than others," Tolman said.
Jones has since begun mental health treatment, the lawyer said.
The purported attacks began with a beating at his family's pizza business in April that left Jones with head and facial bruising.
Five days later, the family's home was found spray-painted with a homophobic slur. On June 10, a rock and a molotov cocktail were thrown through the window of the home. That same day, the business was spray-painted, broken into and robbed of $1,000.
Jones told KSL-TV earlier this month he believed he was targeted because he is gay.
Dekker said prosecutors are considering possible charges including filing a false report and reckless burning.
Tolman said Jones didn't have any criminal intent and the outpouring of support after the allegations became public was a good message.
Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox publicly declared his support after the allegations were reported. Cox said Tuesday that he's relieved that the troubling allegations weren't authentic, but he's concerned for Jones and his family and hopes they find "peace and healing."