A University of Michigan student who told police that a stranger threatened to set her on fire if she didn’t remove her hijab could soon face a felony charge for false reporting.
Police say there is no evidence proving the student’s report to authorities in November, when she claimed that an intoxicated man threatened her outside the Ann Arbor campus. The investigation will be turned over to the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office, which will decide if the student should be charged.
Lt. Matthew Lige, a detective with the Ann Arbor Police Department, told The Washington Post Wednesday that because the act of intimidation the student reported to police is considered a felony, she could be charged with a felony charge of filing a false report. Under Michigan law, that crime is punishable by up to four years in prison or a fine of not more than $2,000.
The student, whose name is not being released at this time, told police that a man in his 20s or 30s approached her between 5:30 and 7 p.m. on Nov. 11 and threatened to set her on fire with a lighter. She also said the man had an average height, an athletic build and an unkempt appearance.
After interviewing witnesses and reviewing surveillance videos, investigators with the Ann Arbor and University of Michigan police departments and the FBI found “numerous inconsistencies” with the student’s statements, according to a news release.
Lige said the identity of the student, previously identified as a 19-year-old woman, will not be released until she’s charged with a crime.
The findings come about a week after an 18-year-old Muslim woman from Long Island, N.Y., was arrested on misdemeanor charges of filing a police report and obstructing government administration.
The woman in that case, Yasmin Seweid, told police and media outlets earlier this month that she was riding the subway home from Baruch College, where she is a student, when three drunk men cornered her and began screaming “Donald Trump!” The men yanked on her bag and tried to pull her hijab off her head, Seweid told the New York Daily News on Dec. 3.
Shortly after, dozens of New Yorkers turned up at Grand Central Terminal in midtown Manhattan in solidarity with her, carrying signs that read “Fight hate” and “#notinourcity.”
On Dec. 7, Seweid disappeared in Long Island, prompting a missing persons investigation by Nassau County police, who said she was last seen leaving her New Hyde Park home at about 8 p.m. Seweid was found that same week, police said.
New York Police Department spokesman Adam Navarro later told The Washington Post that Seweid is facing charges for false reporting.
The incidents involving Seweid and the University of Michigan student occurred amid other reports of threats and harassment in several parts of the country after the election of President-elect Donald Trump.
The Southern Poverty Law Center has tallied 1,094 incidents of harassment and intimidation against immigrants, Muslims, blacks and other minorities since the presidential election. The incidents were reported on the news, on social media and directly to the organization’s website.
The center, however, cautioned that not all incidents involved direct references to Trump and that not every incident could be independently verified. Many involved vandalisms, while others were direct attacks.
Derek Hawkins contributed to this report.