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Mont. Gay Man Pleads Guilty to Lying About Hate Crime

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday August 10, 2012

A Montana man has pleaded guilty to filing a false police report that said he was physically assaulted because he is gay, the Missoulian reported.

Joseph Baken, 22, claimed that he was attacked outside a straight nightclub in Missoula, Mont., on his birthday after he asked patrons about the location of a nearby gay club, EDGE reported.

Missoula Police Lt. Scott Brodie said Baken told officers he was beaten because of his sexual orientation and that after he asked for directions to a gay club someone asked him to step outside for a cigarette. Baken claimed he was then attacked by multiple people.

But Baken pleaded guilty in Missoula Municipal Court on Tuesday to making a false police report to law enforcement.

"The decision to file criminal charges was due in part to the sense of fear and anger that quickly developed after Baken had identified a specific business and possible suspects in his allegations," Brodie said in a statement. "Joseph Baken was contacted by Missoula police detectives and during a subsequent interview he admitted that the alleged assault against him did not occur as it was reported."

After the incident made national headlines, the Wipe Out Homophobia Facebook page posted a photo of Baken's bruised face with the message: "PLEASE join us in wishing Joseph a happy birthday and a speedy recovery. Nobody deserves this, especially not just because of your sexuality. Stay strong Joseph, half a million of us are on your side xxx." The page also claimed that Baken's attackers shouted homophobic slurs at him during the assualt.

On Tuesday, authorities received a video that showed Baken attempting a backflip. The 22 year old, however, doesn't stick the landing and smacks his face on the sidewalk. Many believe this is how he got the cuts and bruises on his face.

When the incident was first reported the LGBT community came together to show support for the young man. Wipe Out Homophobia created the "Proposition Gay Downtown Missoula Pub Crawl" event. James Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network said, "It sends a message that some people are not welcome and that anyone in that group can be the next target. ... It's more than just one person being beaten up. It's about targeting and silencing an entire community, and it has got to change."

Wipe Out Homophobia responded to Baken's confession and officials from the group posted the video of the young man's backflip on its Facebook page with the text, "Looks like we have all been had..."

Baken was sentenced to 180 days in jail and was slapped with a $300 fine. The jail time, however, has been suspended.

Watch the video of Baken's backflip below: