Man on ‘week-long anti-LGBTQ+ crime spree’ in Idaho tried to hit people with car
A man has been handed a three-year prison sentence for carrying out a “week-long crime spree” targeting LGBTQ+ people, including trying to hit people with a car in Idaho.
Matthew Alan Lehigh, 31, was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release after he pled guilty to two hate crime counts after he terrorised the LGBTQ+ community in Boise, Idaho last year.
On 8 October 2022, Lehigh punched and threatened to stab a trans employee at the Boise Public Library, according to a Department of Justice press release. The man also called her a hateful slur before he was confronted by a library security guard.
Lehigh then attempted to hit the security guard with his car before fleeing the scene.
Just four days later, Lehigh threatened and shouted slurs at two women who he assumed were lesbians. He tried to hit the women with his car, but the women jumped out of the way and he collided with another vehicle “at significant speed”.
Vegas Shegrud, one of the women that Lehigh tried to hit with his vehicle, said she’s struggled with her mental health after the incident and dropped out of school as a result, the Idaho Statesman reported.
“The fear I felt that day is unparalleled by any other event in my life,” Shegrud told the court.
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“Almost immediately following the incident, I started having worse panic attacks than I’ve ever had before.“
Lehigh’s defence attorney told the court that the man is a Christian who believes that being LGBTQ+ is a sin. The attorney argued Lehigh didn’t wish to harm LGBTQ+ people until his mental health took a turn for the worse.
Lehigh, who has received treatment, apologised in court Thursday (2 November).
“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,” he said.
Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said Lehigh’s anti-LGBTQ+ “crime spree not only endangered and terrified his victims but damaged an entire community’s sense of safety in their city”.
“We recognise 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,” Clarke said.
“Nobody should live in fear that their identity will make them a target of random, senseless violence while going about their daily lives.”
As part of his plea agreement, Lehigh also admitted being responsible for three other anti-LGBTQ+ incidents that occurred in Boise during October 2022.
He set fire to a rainbow Pride flag attached to a home in north Boise; broke several windows at a building jointly occupied by a queer community organisation and an LGBTQ-affirming religious congregation; and punched a grocery store customer after calling him a bigoted slur.
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