Hate Crime ’Branding’ Was A Hoax, Authorities Say
The attack described by University of North Carolina student Quinn Matney was horrific. According to Matney, an assailant seized his arm and pressed a searing hot metal implement into his wrist, telling him, ""Here’s a taste of hell, you fucking fag." But authorities have now revealed an even more troubling fact: Matney--whose deep burn wounds were real--had lied about the attack.
Pink News reported on the fabrication on April 13.
Matney had recounted that he’d gone for a walk on the university campus, located in Chapel Hill, NC, in the early morning hours of April 4 because he was suffering a bout of insomnia. Pausing near a footbridge to chat with an acquaintance, Matney claimed, he was suddenly attacked by a 19-year-old Caucasian man who abused him with the anti-gay epithet as he pressed the searing metal into Matney’s wrist, leaving two circular burns in his wrist and doing damage to the freshman’s tendons and nerves.
Matney said that he struggled to escape the man’s grasp, finally punching him. The man then fled, according to Matney’s account. Two other men accompanied the assailant, and all three appeared to be drunk, Matney said. The assailant was described as being 5’ 9" with a "large build."
But the attack was fabricated, UNC officials said on April 11.
"The Department of Public Safety has determined that the alleged aggravated assault... did not occur," the university’s Chancellor, Holden Thorp, stated on April 11. "That report, filed with campus police on April 5, was false. The University will not report it as a hate crime."
The chancellor hastened to add that this one incident having been fabricated did not mean that bias crimes targeting sexual minorities are not a problem.
"It is important to recognize that incidents of harassment do occur," Thorp said. "When they do, we take them seriously. We strive to foster a welcoming, inclusive and safe environment at Carolina."
Students had criticized the university’s administration for not having made announcement about Matney’s claim earlier.
"A very blatant hate crime against a GLBT individual occurred on this campus, and we only heard about it by word of mouth," said the co-chair of UNC’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance, Jeff DeLuca.
A vice chancellor, Winston Crisp, said that Matney apparently did seek treatment from the university’s heath services. As to how Matney came to suffer the burns--whether they were self-inflicted, accidental, or happened in some other way--was not specified in media reports.
A university spokesperson said that Matney would probably be charged for making a false report, reported Q Notes in an April 12 report.
One reader commenting on the April 12 report on the alleged attack in UNC student publication the Tar Heel had speculated that Matney’s burn wounds might have been self-inflicted.
"We are to assume the attacker, with the intent of committing a hate crime, intentionally waited at a bench until 3 in the morning?" the posting read. "The fact that a man who the victim claims to be unable to recognize somehow is aware of his sexual orientation?
"While I know this accusation will receive large amounts of backlash, it is not inconceivable that Matney’s burns were self-inflicted as a means of raising attention to an issue that is important to him, although in this case nonexistent," the posting continued. "Already the UNC community has reacted strongly in opposition to hate crimes, as Matney could have conceivably planned and intended it to."
Matney’s motives for making the attack claim remain unknown.
The university’s LGBTQ Center encouraged students who suffer harassment not to be discouraged by the false report and to step forward, the Tar Heel reported in an April 13 follow-up article.
"The way this has played out should in no way deter anyone who experiences harassment from coming forward and coming to the police," said the center’s director, Terri Phoenix.