BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) – An Oregon man pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court in Boise Thursday to two federal hate crimes.
According to court records, on Oct. 8, 2022, while at the Boise Public Library Main Branch in downtown Boise, Matthew Alan Lehigh, 31, approached a transgender library employee, called her a slur, punched her, and threatened to stab her. A member of the library’s security staff intervened, and Lehigh fled into the parking lot. When the security guard attempted to speak to Lehigh in the parking lot, Lehigh got into a car and suddenly accelerated it toward the guard, intending to collide with him. The guard narrowly escaped being struck by jumping behind a concrete barricade at the last moment, and Lehigh fled the scene.
Four days later, while sitting in his car in a public parking lot elsewhere in Boise, Lehigh saw two women walking together towards another vehicle. Assuming that the women identified as lesbian, Lehigh began shouting threats and slurs at them, then suddenly accelerated his car toward the women, intending to collide with them. The women jumped out of the path of Lehigh’s oncoming car, which struck the other vehicle at significant speed.
The superseding information to which Lehigh pled guilty charges him with one felony violation of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act for the vehicular assault on the library security guard, and a second felony violation of Act for the vehicular assault on the two women.
As part of his plea agreement, Lehigh also admitted that he was responsible for three other instances of anti-LGBT vandalism and violence that occurred in Boise during early October 2022. Specifically, he admitted to setting fire to a rainbow-striped “pride” flag attached to a residential property in North Boise, breaking several windows at a commercial building jointly occupied by an LGBTQI+ community organization and an LGBTQI+-affirming religious congregation, and punching a grocery store customer after calling him an anti-LGBTQI+ slur.
“This defendant targeted strangers for terrifying attacks for no reason other than his perceptions of their sexual orientation,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “No one should live in fear of hate-fueled violence because of who they are. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit heinous acts of hate, and we are committed to protecting the rights of all Americans, including those in the LGBTQI+ community.”
“Everyone, no matter who they are, should be free from senseless violence,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit for the District of Idaho. “I am grateful to the Boise Police Department and the FBI for thoroughly and efficiently investigating this case. And I hope the victims are able to take solace in the fact that the defendant is being held accountable for his hateful and violent acts.”
“We will not tolerate violence fueled by hatred,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Cheyvoryea Gibson of the FBI’s Salt Lake City Field Office. “The FBI is committed to working tirelessly with our law enforcement partners to guarantee that everyone, regardless of identity, sexual orientation, faith or disability, feels secure and protected in our communities.” Lehigh to faces between 37 and 45 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. The agreement also requires that Lehigh pay restitution to all victims and that he remains continuously under the care of a clinical psychiatrist upon his release from prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
The Boise Police Department and the Boise Resident Agency of the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office investigated the case.
Assistant Attorney General Clarke, U.S. Attorney Hurwit and Acting Special Agent in Charge Gibson made the announcement.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Horwitz for the District of Idaho and Trial Attorney Alec Ward of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section are prosecuting the case.