Brent Matthews says that a week before he rolled a pig’s head into a Lewiston mosque, a Lewiston police officer told him that leaving the head in a doorway as a practical joke might lead to charges of littering, or perhaps improper disposal of animal parts.
That exchange was described in court papers Matthews’ attorney filed Monday. The documents outline for the first time Matthews’ defense of his actions, which created an uproar and led to a rally in support of the city’s Muslim community.
The paperwork, filed in response to the attorney general’s civil rights injunction, seeks to portray the incident as an act of stupidity, perhaps, but not a hate crime.
But Lewiston police say that Eric Syphers, the officer Matthews spoke with, also counseled Matthews against depositing the pig’s head in a doorway and warned him it might be a hate crime.
Syphers was the officer who ended up arresting Matthews after the incident, having persuaded him to turn himself in to police.
The court papers filed by Matthews say he and Syphers were acquaintances and had talked about the pig’s head during a chance encounter at the Lewiston Mall.
“As soon as it happened, he knew who to get in touch with,” said Lewiston Police Lt. Michael McGonagle. McGonagle said he is not sure, but believes Matthews must have indicated he was going to target Somalis or else Syphers would not have suggested it could be a hate crime.