BOISE, Idaho (KIFI) – An Oregon man was sentenced Thursday to 37 months in federal prison and three years of supervised release for attempting to run over three people with a car as part of a week-long crime spree targeting the LGBTQI+ community around Boise in October 2022.
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 the women were lesbians, 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 defendant’s crime spree not only endangered and terrified his victims but damaged an entire community’s sense of safety in their city,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. “We recognize the very real threats and acts of violence faced by the LGBTQI+ community and are determined to use every tool available to preserve the life, safety and dignity of this community. Nobody should live in fear that their identity will make them a target of random, senseless violence while going about their daily lives. The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who commit unlawful acts of hate-fueled anti-LGBTQI+ violence while seeking justice for the victims.”
“The defendant’s attacks on LGBTQI+ individuals were terrifying not only for the individual victims, but for our entire community, and that is why hate crimes enforcement is so important,” said U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit. “I am grateful to the Ada County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, the Boise Police Department, and the FBI for their work in helping us to hold this defendant accountable for his hateful and violent acts.”
“I extend my appreciation to the Boise Police Department, FBI Salt Lake City Office and United States Attorney’s Office for pursuing justice in this case,” said Ada County Prosecuting Attorney, Jan Bennetts. “My office worked in cooperation with the United States Attorney’s Office to determine which office would handle this case. This case underscores to all Idahoans that hate crimes will be taken seriously whether handled at the federal or local level and that we will work together to ensure public safety and justice for the community.”
“The First Amendment clearly protects freedom of speech, but crossing the line into violence is against the law and will not be tolerated,” said Special Agent in Charge Shohini Sinha with the Salt Lake City FBI. “No one should have to live in fear because of who they are, and the men and women of the FBI are committed to protecting the civil rights of all.”
On June 15, 2022, Lehigh pleaded guilty to one felony count of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act for the vehicular assault on the library security guard, and a second felony violation 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-LGBTQI+ 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.
The Boise Resident Agency of the FBI Salt Lake City Field Office and the Boise Police Department investigated this case.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Horwitz for the District of Idaho and Trial Attorney Alec Ward of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section prosecuted the case.