Michigan prosecutors allege Nikki Joly, a longtime LGBT activist, set fire to her home and killed her pets due to resentment from subsiding controversy over the enactment of nondiscrimination legislation she supported.
The Detroit News reported Monday that law enforcement charged Joly, a transgender man from Jackson, Michigan, who burned down her own home, killing five pets inside, in what was initially investigated by the FBI as an alleged hate crime in 2017. The newspaper, citing two individuals who worked alongside Joly at St. Johns United Church of Christ, where the Jackson Pride Center is based, reported that Jolly, 54, had become “frustrated the controversy over gay rights had died down with the passage of the nondiscrimination law.”
The Detroit News reported:
The church officials, Barbara Shelton and Bobby James, when asked by police about a possible motive for the fire, said Joly was disappointed the Jackson Pride Parade and Festival, held five days before the blaze, hadn’t received more attention or protests.
Contacted by a reporter, James declined to comment. But Shelton quibbled with the way police characterized her remarks, saying she had no idea if Joly was frustrated by the lack of controversy.
“Not sure I said that,” she wrote in an email. “I have no idea about anything, never heard Nikki comment in any fashion about anything like that.”
Police officer Aaron Grove, who interviewed Shelton and James, said the pair described Joly as “‘very deceptive” and possessing “layers of manipulation.”
Joly, who was named MLive’s 2018 Citizen of the Year, spearheaded several LGBTQ-friendly initiatives and events, including the town’s first gay festival.
“It’s embarrassing,” said Travis Trombley, a gay resident of Jackson and former ally of Jolly. “How do you do it to the community you have put so much effort into helping?”
The paper reports that five pets — two German Shepherds and three cats — died in the fire. The body of one dog blocked a door as firefighters tried to enter.
The alleged hate hoax comes after Chicago prosecutors charged Empire actor Jussie Smollett for filing a false report with police in connection to staging a racist and homophobic attack on himself last month.
Smollett told police two masked individuals hurled bigoted insults and doused him with an unknown chemical substance while walking home from a sandwich shop at 2 a.m. on January 29. The actor also told police his assailants looped a thin rope around his neck and shouted “This is MAGA country!” before fleeing. He allegedly enlisted the help of two brothers — Abimbola “Abel” and Olabinjo “Ola” Osundairo — to stage the attack, paying them $3,500 by check.
Smollett returned to the Chicago set of Empire after posting bond for $100,000 at a Cook County courthouse hours prior. However, Smollett’s role on the hit FOX studios program is uncertain as executive producers considering recasting his character.