Commentary on Marcus Owens’ Claims About Being the Victim of a Hate Crime Being Proven to be Lies


On Monday, news broke that University of Iowa student, Marcus Owens, who earlier this month claimed he was the victim of an anti-African American hate crime, has admitted his assertions were untrue. I blogged about Owens back on May 8 and posted why I was suspicious of his claim to victimhood. (See: This new development in the Owens’ story is worthy of a new blog post.

Why I Cannot Forgive Marcus Owens

Owens did not reverse himself because he realized it was the ethical course of action. He only acknowledged the truth only after being confronted by the Iowa City Police with the evidence of what really happened to him on April 30 and May 1.

I wish I could write that I was young and stupid once and so forgive Owens. I cannot do so as a consequence of how he has handled the situation since being shown to be a liar.

What Really Happened to Marcus Owens

Owens did not, as he had maintained, step outside of Eden Lounge at around 10:45 PM on April 30 and thereafter suffer a beating at the hands of three white men who singled him out because he was black. Security camera footage and eye-witness statements tell a different story.

Owens first stepped through the door of the Eden Lounge at 11:45 PM. At 1: 35 AM his blood-alcohol level was about.175, or over twice the legal limit. It was also at 1:35 AM that Owens was a participant in a large bar fight that had nothing to do with race. As a consequence of his role in this conflict, he was kicked out of the bar. Next he tried to reenter. (We all know the type of person who gets drunk in a bar, gets into a violent encounter, is ejected from the premises and then tries to force his way back in.)

At 1:41 AM Owens was out on the street near the bar and throwing punches in yet another fight. At 1:44 AM he was punching in a third fight. According to one media source: “All the [security camera] footage [from both the Eden Lounge and the public street] show Owens acting aggressively, shoving and pushing and yelling.” Iowa City police Capt. Troy Kelsay stated: “Marcus was not the victim of an assault. Marcus was an active participant, and even an instigator, in three separate physical confrontations or assaults that occurred at [or near the time of the] bar[‘s] close.”

All three conflicts arose from disputes between members of the Pi Kappa Alpha and Kappa Sigma fraternities. Race had nothing to do with anything that occurred during those early morning hours.

The Truth Comes Out

Before going public with the findings of their investigation, the police reported what had been learned to Owens’ lawyer, Leon Spies. (I am sure the fact that Owens hired a lawyer right after having made his false hate crime report was a red flag to law enforcement.)

Owens had made public statements to numerous media outlets in support of his tale of having suffered a racially motivated attack. Once his statements had been shown to be untrue, he should have been man enough to make a public admission of his untrue remarks and made public apologies to the Iowa City Police, the people of Iowa City, the F.B.I. (which became involved in the case) and University of Iowa. Instead his lawyer issued a statement on behalf of the Owens family.

Statement from the Owens Family

It read: “Marcus Owens and the entire Owens family would like to issue their deepest apologies to Marcus’s friends, the Iowa City community, the University of Iowa, and the Iowa City Police Department [the F.B.I. should have been mentioned but was not] for the misunderstandings and anxiety stemming from Marcus’s involvement in a violent incident [the reader will recall that there were actually three incidents] in downtown Iowa City on May 1.” To refer to Owens’ dishonest claims as a “misunderstanding” is outrageous.

The statement continued: “Upon learning more details of the case, and while racial slurs served to fuel the violence, Marcus now knows that his account of events was inconsistent with police findings, in part due to alcohol being involved, his embarrassment at his behavior, as well as the injuries he sustained.” According to Iowa City police, a single racial slur was uttered during one of the three fights in which Owens “was an active participant, and even an instigator….” This means that one of the white people that Owens was trying to beat up while in an intoxicated rage became angry at him and used an ugly word. By claiming that this ugly word “served to fuel the violence” the Owens family is blaming one of Marcus’ victims in this case. In referring to “alcohol being involved” the family is seeking to partially absolve Owens by saying he was drunk. This is complete nonsense. It is not uncommon for a person who is very intoxicated to forget something that happen to them. However, I do not believe there has ever been a case of a person getting drunk and incorrectly recalling they had been the victim of a hate crime. The phrase “his embarrassment at his behavior” begs for an explanation. According to one news report: “Multiple witnesses told police Owens was worried about how he would explain his injuries to his family.” I can only assume that the “injuries he sustained” passage is meant to suggest that Owens’ memory might have become fogged about what occurred on May 1 as a result of them. To this I say b.s.!

The statement continued: “In light of this, it was concluded that this incident was not a hate crime as originally believed, but rather a case of excessive underage drinking and extremely poor judgment on the part of many people, Marcus included.” The implication here appears to be that Marcus himself legitimately believed that he had been the victim of a hate crime until the police told him this was not the case. This is a cowardly and sickening remark. The reference to “excessive underage drinking and extremely poor judgment on the part of many people” represents a further attempt to blame Marcus’ victims for what he is responsible for doing.

The last part of the statement read: “Again, we would like to apologize and thank the University (especially President Bruce Harreld and his staff) and the Iowa City Police Department [the F.B.I. is again left out] for their attention, sensitivity, diligence in investigating this matter, and in thoroughly addressing our many concerns. Just as we have learned many life-changing lessons, we hope too that the community will continue to examine the many issues raised by this unfortunate incident. – Marcus Owens and The Owens Family” I do not know what “issues [have been] raised by this unfortunate incident” other than to reinforce the notion making false claims about hate crimes has become commonplace.

Black Privilege and the “Blond, Blue-Eyed White Female”

Iowa City authorities and the Iowa City police have stated that Owens will not be prosecuted for filing a false police report, underage drinking, public intoxication, disorderly conduct, being the aggressor in the fights and, in the words of the police, “beating the snot out of” another person. He will likewise not be pursued in civil court to recoup expenses incurred during the investigation of his false claims. (Did Marcus lie to the F.B.I.?) I chalk this up to Black Privilege.

When speaking to the media during the first week in May, Marcus’ uncle, Darrell Owens, complained about the fact that when Marcus contacted the University of Iowa police to file his false report he was referred to the Iowa City police who had legal jurisdiction over the area in which Marcus claimed he was assaulted. Darrell argued that if a “blond, blue-eyed white female [had] come in after being assaulted, I think there would be zero chance that they would have given the same response.” If a “blond, blue-eyed white female” had committed all of the misdeeds Marcus has you can be sure she would now be facing criminal prosecution and be forced to repay Iowa City for all costs incurred investigating her spurious claims.

The Moral of the Story Is…

The next time you read a story about a member of a minority group claiming to be a victim of a hate crime remember that they only very rarely happen in today’s United States. Remember, also, Marcus Owens, Tawana Brawley, the University of Albany bus case, the anti-gay cake hoax…

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