Oregon man sentenced for terrorizing Boise Idaho’s LGBTQ community

A federal judge sentenced Matthew Alan Lehigh, a 31-year-old Oregon resident, to 37 to 45 months in prison for a string of hate-motivated attacks targeting the LGBTQ+ community in Boise, Idaho. Lehigh’s week-long crime spree involved assaults and acts of intimidation against individuals perceived to be part of the LGBTQ+ community.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced Lehigh’s sentencing, revealing he received 37 to 45 months in jail followed by three years of supervised release after admitting guilt to violating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and committing vehicular assault in 2022. His assaults involved using his vehicle as a weapon and destroying a Pride flag.

Lehigh acknowledged acute mental health issues at the time of the attacks and expressed remorse in court, stating, “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.”

Court records detailed the harrowing incidents. Lehigh verbally attacked a transgender library employee at the Boise Public Library Main Branch, uttering anti-LGBTQ+ slurs and physically threatening to stab the individual. When confronted by a security guard, he attempted to ram the guard with his car but narrowly missed as the guard jumped behind a barricade.

Four days later, Lehigh targeted two women he perceived as lesbians in a Boise parking lot, verbally assaulting them before accelerating his car toward them. Fortunately, the women avoided injury by evading his vehicle, which crashed into another car.

Vegas Shegrud, one of the women involved, recounted the trauma from the assault, telling the Associated Press, “The fear I felt that day is unparalleled by any other event in my life.”

In addition to these incidents, Lehigh confessed to burning a rainbow-striped Pride flag, damaging property shared by LGBTQI+ and religious organizations, and physically assaulting a grocery store customer while using derogatory anti-LGBTQ+ language.

Federal authorities underscored the gravity of Lehigh’s actions, stressing the harm inflicted on the LGBTQ+ community and the city’s sense of security. Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division, condemned the spree as a hate-driven intimidation tactic.

Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division, reiterated the commitment to safeguarding LGBTQI+ individuals from violence, emphasizing the collective effort to preserve their safety, dignity, and rights.

Notably, despite facing state charges for the attacks, Lehigh wasn’t charged with a hate crime under Idaho state law due to its omission of sexual orientation as a determining factor. A federal jury indicted him on two hate crime charges, elevating the case to federal courts.

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