Federal prosecutors have charged a Texas man with harassing and threatening to kill a Boston physician who cares for transgender children.
Matthew Jordan Lindner, 38, of Comfort, Texas, is charge with one count of transmitting interstate threats. He was arrested Friday morning in Texas by the FBI and is expected to appear in federal court in Massachusetts at a later date.
"While everyone has a right to express their opinion, they don’t have a right to use or threaten violence against individuals who do not share their same set of beliefs,” said Joseph Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division. “No one should have to live in fear of violence because of who they are, what kind of work they do, where they are from, or what they believe. This case is unfortunately one of many others that illustrates FBI Boston’s commitment to thwarting potential violent incidents motivated by hate and bias and holding the individuals behind them accountable.”
Authorities say the targeted physician works at the Fenway Institute in Boston.
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On Aug. 31, Lindner allegedly called the Boston-based National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center, a part of the Fenway Institute, and left a profane and threatening voice message in which he said a group of people were coming for the physician.
According to the charging documents, part of the voicemail said, "You signed your own warrant...castrating our children. You've woken up enough people. And upset enough of us. And you signed your own ticket."
Massachusetts U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins said that while the threat targeted a specific doctor, it also victimized LGBTQ people and their families.
“Death threats instill fear and terror in their targeted audiences. The conduct alleged here is not protected free speech. The words used here do not amount to someone simply expressing their discontent or engaging in a heated debate. Mr. Lindner’s alleged conduct – a death threat – is based on falsehoods and amounts to an act of workplace violence. The victim, a Doctor caring for gender nonconforming and transgendered patients, should be able to engage in this meaningful and necessary work without fear of physical harm or death. And although the Doctor is clearly a victim, Mr. Lindner’s threat is rooted in a hatred of the LGBTQIA+ community and the families, friends and people that love and support them. They are victims too,” Rollins said.
“There used to be a respite and safe haven from harm or attack in our schools, churches, hospitals and courthouses. We used to extend that decency and respect to even our fiercest adversaries. Sadly, those days appear to be gone," she added. "The Department of Justice has pledged to protect the rights of the gender nonconforming and transgendered community, which includes the health care providers who render care and support. This office will vigorously investigate and prosecute individuals who engaged in hate crimes, including threats. Today’s charges show that we will scour the country to ensure the safety and wellbeing of people in Massachusetts. Hate has no place here.”
Over the summer, doctors and other staffers at Boston Children's Hospital also received violent threats related to its medical care for transgender youth. Authorities noted the threats began after false and misleading claims about the hospital and its work spread online.
In August, Rollins announced the creation of the “End Hate Now” hotline for reporting hate-based incidents or potential criminal activity. Massachusetts residents are encouraged to call the hotline at 1-83-END-H8-NOW (1-833-634-8669) to report concerning or troubling incidents of hate, potential hate crimes, or concerns regarding individuals believed to be espousing hate-filled views or actions.
The charge of transmitting interstate threats provides for a sentence of up to five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.
Lindner was arrested on Dec. 2 in Texas and released on bond. He's due in court in Boston on Dec. 22. His attorney declined to comment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report