Transgender accused of setting fire to her own home, killing her own pets is set for trial

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Jackson Police Department

A high-profile Jackson, Mich. LGBTQ rights activist and director of various “pride” services and events will soon stand trial on accusations from 2017 that she burned down her own house, MLive reports.

Nikki Joly, 57, who is also transgender, a female playing a male, is accused in an Aug. 10, 2017 fire that destroyed her home. Her two dogs and three cats all died in the fire. Joly faces one count of first-degree arson and two counts of animal killing.

A jury trial for Joly is set to begin on May 2. Joly is scheduled to appear in court March 29 for a final pre-trial conference.

A Jackson Police Department arson investigation report obtained by MLive/Jackson Citizen Patriot and based on a timeline of events leading up to the fire, phone records, physical evidence collected by police and witness statements, determined that Joly had the means and opportunity to start the fire. Investigators determined a flammable material like gasoline was used, police previously said.

After the incident much was made in the community of Joly’s activism, hate crimes, intolerance, gay pride and the “victimization” of LGBTQ people by shadowy forces of hate and intolerance.

During the investigation police seized Joly’s electronic devices, leading to the discovery of an email from Joly to his defense counsel which referred to where a gas can and lawnmower from Joly’s house could be found. A detective talked to the people referenced in the email and, with a search warrant, took the gas can and lawnmower as evidence. The email was protected under attorney-client privilege and is not allowed in the court proceedings, the appeals court ruled.

Joly led the push to establish the city’s non-discrimination ordinance, which was approved in 2017. She was director of the Jackson Pride Center, which opened in February 2017, and an organizer of the Jackson Pride Festival and Parade held in 2017 and 2018.

First-degree arson can be punishable by life in prison and a fine of $20,000, or three times the value of the property destroyed. Killing or torturing an animal is punishable by up to four years in prison.

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