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Oregon Man Who Punched Trans Library Worker Pleads Guilty to Hate Crimes

Oregon Man Who Punched Trans Library Worker Pleads Guilty to Hate Crimes

Oregon Man Pleads Guilty to Anti-LGBTQ+ Hate Crime Car Attack

The man admitted guilt to a string of unsolved attacks in Idaho last year.

An Oregon man pleaded guilty to federal hate crime charges for a series of attacks against perceived members of the LGBTQ+ community in Idaho last year.

According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Matthew Alan Lehigh, 31, used anti-LGBTQ+ slurs as he punched and threatened to stab a transgender library employee at the Boise Public Library Main Branch in downtown Boise on October 8, 2022. When confronted by a security guard, he fled to a car and “suddenly accelerated it toward the guard, intending to collide with him.” The guard “narrowly escaped” injury by jumping behind a concrete barricade.

Lehigh used his car as an intended weapon again four days later in a Boise parking lot when he saw two women he perceived to be lesbians. He yelled “threats and slurs” at the pair before he “suddenly accelerated his car toward the women, intending to collide with them.” The two women were able to avoid Lehigh’s oncoming car which then struck another vehicle “at significant speed.”

Lehigh also admitted responsibility for setting fire to a rainbow-striped Pride flag in North Boise, breaking windows at a building jointly occupied by an LGBTQI+ community organization and religious congregation, and punching a grocery store customer after using an anti-LGBTQ+ slur.

“This defendant targeted strangers for terrifying attacks for no reason other than his perceptions of their sexual orientation,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a press release. “No one should live in fear of hate-fueled violence because of who they are.

“Everyone, no matter who they are, should be free from senseless violence,” echoed U.S. Attorney Josh Hurwit for the District of Idaho in the release. “I am grateful to the Boise Police Department and the FBI for thoroughly and efficiently investigating this case.”

Prior to his indictment on federal hate crime charges, Lehigh faced state charges for the attacks. However, Idaho law does not include sexual orientation as a determining factor, so Lehigh was not charged with a hate crime charge by the state. A federal jury indicted him on two hate crime charges on January 12 of this year, and the case moved to the federal courts.

“Hate crimes such as this are an attack on a deeply personal part of someone’s identity, and they have a devastating impact on families and communities,” said Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will not tolerate violence against the LGBTQI+ community. We will continue to investigate civil rights violations and do everything we can to keep our communities safe and free from fear.”

In exchange for his guilty plea, Lehigh agreed to serve between 37 and 45 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release. He also agreed to pay restitution to all victims and remain under the continuous care of a clinical psychiatrist upon his release.

While the Lehigh and prosecutors reached a plea agreement, the final sentence will be determined by the presiding federal district court judge.

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