DJ Bell, 31, formerly of South Salt Lake, was facing 30 years to life in prison, accused by his neighbors of kidnapping two children on July 4, 2008. Minutes after being accused, he and his partner, Dan Fair, were severely beaten, but no charges have been filed against the attackers. A 3rd District Court jury in Salt Lake City acquitted Bell on Sept. 25.
When did you realize the investigation was focusing on you as a kidnapper, not as an assault victim?
There’s a lot I don’t remember after being beat. I didn’t realize until I already had been incarcerated a couple days. I wondered, “What am I doing here?” I wondered why I couldn’t hear out of my right ear and wondered why I had been arrested. I found out from my sister that no arrests had been made on [the childen’s] family side.
Do you believe that homophobia played a role in the investigation and prosecution of this case?
Absolutely. As soon as the words “pedophile” and “faggot” were used at the same time—the South Salt Lake Police officer heard that accusation from the state’s witnesses—the police automatically dropped all thought of it being a beating and automatically started going with the pedophile theory.
What would you like to see happen to your attackers?
I think some should be prosecuted for aggravated assault, but there are two in particular that we would like to see brought up on charges of attempted murder. There was one female at the party that was calling them off. Some stopped and walked away. There were two others that did not. They left Dan with such injuries that both the original doctor and [his] reconstructive surgeon said it was clear that they had tried to kill him.
How did you afford your robust legal team?
My parents had to leverage their home and used up all their savings. Now my parents are flat broke. We were lucky enough to get attorneys that believed in me. They decided to take it for a much lower rate. Our entire investigation staff worked for free. Two expert witnesses did it for free, and one did it for a nominal fee.
Does this experience make you feel differently about children?
It’s best to just leave children alone, especially for a gay person, because there is still that stigma. Unless you are a family member, do not interact with other people’s children. It’s not safe.