NATIONAL NEWS

Oregon man pleads guilty to hate crimes charges in Idaho

Jun 15, 2023, 5:44 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty to hate crime charges for threatening to use his vehicle to hit an Idaho library worker who defended a transgender co-worker, as well as two women he believed were lesbians, according to court documents and the U.S. Justice Department.

Matthew Alan Lehigh, 31, of Oregon, on Thursday entered the plea to two hate crimes charges in federal court in Idaho, the department said. Lehigh had signed a plea agreement in the case last month. He faces sentencing later.

An attorney for Lehigh did not immediately return an email seeking comment sent after hours Thursday.

Lehigh acknowledged as part of the plea agreement that last October at a Boise public library he threatened and struck with a closed fist a library worker who is transgender. Another library employee tried to protect the co-worker and followed Lehigh as Lehigh fled to the parking lot. There, Lehigh got into his car and after the worker who followed him outside approached, Lehigh accelerated his car toward the person, who jumped out of the way, according to the agreement.

Days later, Lehigh was in a parking lot in his car at a Boise park and saw two women he “assumed, based on their appearance and dress” were lesbians, according to the document. He shouted threats and slurs at them and accelerated his car toward them. They jumped out of the way, the document states, but Lehigh’s vehicle hit the car of one of the women.

The Justice Department said Lehigh, as part of the agreement, also admitted responsibility for three other incidents, including setting on fire a pride flag that was on a same-sex couple’s porch.

“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 Luis Quesada, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division. “The FBI will not tolerate violence against the LGBTQI+ community.”

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