An Oregon man who went on a “week-long crime spree” against the LGBTQ+ community in Boise, Idaho, was sentenced to over four years in prison by a federal judge on Thursday, according to a DOJ press release.
Matthew Alan Lehigh, 31, received a sentence of 37 months in jail followed by three years of supervised release after pleading guilty in June to one felony count of violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and a second felony violation for vehicular assault on the two women in 2022. Lehigh used his car to attack multiple people he perceived to be gay or allies, and also admitted to destroying a Pride flag.
Lehigh reportedly suffered from acute mental health issues at the time of the attacks.
“I don’t have too much to say other than just my regret and my great gratitude that things didn’t end up worse than they did,” Lehigh said in court on Thursday according to the AP.
According to a press release from the Department of Justice, Lehigh used anti-LGBTQ+ slurs while punching and threatening 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 on October 12. He saw two women he perceived to be lesbians and yelled “threats and slurs” at the pair before he “suddenly accelerated his car toward the women, intending to collide with them.” The two women also narrowly avoided Lehigh’s oncoming car, which struck another vehicle “at significant speed.”
“The fear I felt that day is unparalleled by any other event in my life,” one of the two women, Vegas Shegrud, told the AP.
Shegrud said the attack left her struggling with her mental health and led her to drop out of school.
Lehigh also admitted responsibility for setting fire to a rainbow-striped Pride flag in North Boise on October 4, 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.
“The defendant went on a week-long crime spree to intimidate and harm members of the LGBTQ+ community in Boise,” Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, said in a statement. “Today’s sentence shows that the FBI and our law enforcement partners stand together against hate and will work to protect communities everywhere from bias-motivated attacks.”
“The defendant’s crime spree not only endangered and terrified his victims but damaged an entire community’s sense of safety in their city,” Kristen Clarke, the assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, said in a statement. “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.”