By CARLOS PEDRAZA
Judas Kiss Writer-Producer
UPDATE 5:17 pm PDT Aug. 7 — Joseph Baken, 22, pleaded guilty today to filing a false police report regarding an alleged homophobic attack this past weekend.
KXLH TV in Helena, Mont., reported that Baken appeared in Missoula Municipal Court, where he pleaded guilty, received a suspended 180-day jail sentence, and paid a $300 fine.
Earlier today, newspapers in Missoula, Mont., reported that a video cast doubt on the reported assault. The weekly Missoula Independent and daily Missoulian both cited police sources as saying the alleged incident may not have occurred.
The blurry footage, apparently from a mobile phone, depicts a young man “doing a backflip on Higgins Avenue and sustaining the injuries, lacerations to his face, that have been depicted on social media sites, during the landing,” the Independent wrote.
WATCH THE VIDEO
KXLH reported that Missoula police decided to file criminal charges because of the fear and anger that quickly developed after Baken had identified a specific business and possible suspects.
Police Chief Mark Muir the community’s “concerns and willingness to come forward with valuable information in this case. The incident was resolved quickly due to the information received and will hopefully allow the GLBTI community some needed relief from the fear that was virally spreading across the country.”
I had reached out to Joseph to offer support but did not hear from him. To the commenter, “The Truth,” below who accused me of not getting my facts straight, I can only say that I reported all the facts there were at the time that I posted early this morning here and on our Facebook page. In retrospect, there were certainly details that begged questions not addressed by the Missoula press. And since these new facts have come to light, I’ve duly reported that as well.
As my friend and journalist, Verina Palmer, noted on Facebook, “It makes me sad, as does the poor journalism that offered few facts about this. Where were witnesses of the assault and his friends who took that video? Are there time stamps on it? How did they get that video? Were his injuries consistent with a beating? Did they identify any suspects? There are sooo many questions I would have asked.”
GETTING THE FACTS As a journalist, I can now see the initial report raised questions that should have been followed up on before this case rose to the level of national attention that it has (e.g., Towleroad and Huffington Post). As a person who wanted to believe his friend, I admit my bias: I glossed over these questions because I wanted to support my friend. But reporters shouldn’t have.
I posted the news based on press reports and on the fact that a friend and cast member had been hurt. I stand by that decision because anti-gay violence is all too common, and whether this report is true doesn’t change that. Even though the report was false, it doesn’t lessen the value of the offers of support many people had asked me to relay. I am heartened by their stand that such violence is wrong and should be prosecuted.
ANTI-GAY VIOLENCE IS STILL REAL Some are saying that false reports don’t help “our cause.” Probably. But they shouldn’t hurt it, either. Homophobic violence is real, and on the rise. State-sanctioned anti-gay attacks occur throughout the world, supported by Christian evangelical groups in the United States. Brush off this incident if you must but please don’t believe it casts doubt on the injuries and deaths suffered by many LGBT people around the world.
I’m sorry to have to report that one of our Judas Kiss family was savagely beaten in an attack on his birthday Sunday in Missoula, Montana.
Baken was a featured background player in our film, and an enthusiastic supporter of the film last year on the film festival circuit. He was in New York City last summer for our appearance at NewFest, and participated in the Q&A at our screenings there. While I am glad to learn this didn’t happen in Missoula, where I proudly attended university — a city well known for its openness and acceptance — even in a place like that, gay people are still the objects of hatred.