Gay Student’s Burn Wounds Self-Inflicted, Father Says
The father of a gay University of North Carolina student who admitted to making a false hate crime claim says that his son’s burn injuries were self-inflicted, and his son made up the story out of embarrassment.
Well-meaning friends then pressed the young man to report the fabricated attack to campus authorities, reported UNC’s student publication, the Daily Tar Heel, in an April 14 article.
Quinn Matney, a freshman at UNC, told a story in which 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 uttered the words, "Here’s a taste of hell, you fucking fag," as he pressed a searing hot metal implement 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, adding that he had seen the attacker before, always in the same spot. 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.
Matney’s father explained the situation more clearly, telling the media that his son had inflicted the burns on himself but was unwilling to admit having done so when his friends asked about the wounds.
"He made up something on the spot, thought that would be the end of it," David Matney III disclosed. "He did not know how to stop the ball once it started rolling," the young man’s father added. "This was nothing malicious that Quinn did. It got away from him."
"He was afraid, but me and another friend pushed him to go and seek help," said Matney’s fellow student Sydney Borden. "At first I was angry because it was like he made a fool of everybody, but then knowing him personally it’s easier to see that he made a mistake because he was scared."
The story caused a stir in the national media, before Quinn Matney confessed to having fabricated the attack. Matney made the admission on April 5, while meeting with authorities from the Dept. of Public Safety, his father said.
The campus LGBT group scheduled a forum at its weekly meeting in response to Matney’s claims. That forum will still go forward, the co-chair of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Straight Alliance, Jeff DeLuca, told the Daily Tar Heel.
"This means preserving an open environment for survivors to come forward when real incidents occur, and making sure they know they will be believed," DeLuca said.
Matney faces possible charges for filing a false report with the police, according to university officials. Matney’s father addressed that issue, telling the Daily Tar Heel, "Is it technically a crime? I’m sure it is. Is it one that’s worth them pursuing? That will only be up to them to decide."
The elder Matney also said that Quinn was going into counseling.
"He’s caused a lot of ruckus for a lot of people," said David Matney. "For that we’re sorry, but I can’t put the genie in the bottle, and we have to go forward from where we can."