By Associated press
JACKSON, Mich. – Michigan police said a transgender LGBTQ rights activist had attempted to fabricate a hate-motivated crime by setting fire to his home, but the man's lawyer put it doubt the evidence.
Attorney Daniel Barnett said the evidence was circumstantial and did not provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that Nikki Joly had set fire to August 2017 that had killed five pets at his home in Jackson.
Joly, 54, was charged with first-degree arson last year. A hearing is scheduled for March 8 at the Jackson County Circuit Court, the Detroit News reported.
"We quickly determined that it was a arson," said Monday Elmer Hitt, director of the Jackson Police and Fire Department. "We investigated what was probably a year before the prosecutor ended up laying charges."
MLive.com has obtained the report of the arson investigation that indicates that the gas station's surveillance video shows that Joly bought gasoline on the day of the fire and traces of gasoline were found on his clothes. Telephone records and witness statements show that Joly was at home around the time the fire broke out, according to the report.
"The calendar shows a window of less than five minutes allowing another person to enter the residence, to splash gasoline, to light the fire, then to leave without being seen" , writes police detective Aaron Grove.
Hitt refused to provide a potential motive for the arson. Barnett said the lack of motive causes doubts in the prosecutor's case.
"It does not make sense," said Barnett. "(Joly) was a citizen of the year."
A local newspaper selected Joly as Jackson's year-long citizen in 2018. Joly helped open the city's first LGBTQ community center, staged his first gay pride festival, and helped enact 39, a non-discrimination order.
Last week, Chicago police accused black and gay actor "Empire" Jussie Smollett of disorderly conduct for falsely reporting a racist and homophobic attack.
FOLLOW NBC OUT ON TWITTER, FACEBOOK & INSTAGRAM