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UPDATED: Two Defendants in Swastika Branding Case Plead Guilty Under Alford Pleas

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Two of the three men accused of using a metal coat hanger to brand a swastika into the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man have entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors and will not face trial in San Juan County on the state charges in the case, according to The Daily Times.

The Farmington newspaper said Paul Beebe, 27, and Jesse Sanford, 25, pleaded guilty Tuesday in state District Court under Alford pleas. Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but agrees the state has enough evidence that likely could result in a guilty verdict.

Beebe pleaded to second-degree felony attempted kidnapping and third-degree felony aggravated battery, while Sanford also pleaded to attempted kidnapping and to third-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, The Daily Times reported.

The newspaper said that under the plea agreement, the state did not oppose running the prison time concurrently and agreed to cap the sentence at 8 1/2 years in prison.

The third defendant in the case, William Hatch, was convicted in May in his state District Court trial in Aztec of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He was acquitted of more serious charges of kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

The three men were accused of branding Vincent Kee, shaving the back of his head with a swastika symbol and using a marker to scribe obscenities on his backside in April 2010.

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May 10, 2011 12:57 p.m. — Swastika Branding Federal Hate Crimes Cases To Go to Trial in October

By The Associated Press

A federal trial has been set for Oct. 3 for three northwestern New Mexico men who are the first in the nation to be charged under a law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute people for hate crimes.

U.S. District Judge Bruce Black of Santa Fe signed the order Tuesday setting trial for William Hatch of Fruitland and Paul Beebe and Jesse Sanford, both of Farmington.

The three men were charged last November under the 2009 federal hate crimes law after being accused of branding a swastika on Vincent Kee’s arm with a metal coat hanger in April 2010. They also were accused of shaving a swastika onto the back of the mentally disabled Navajo man’s head and using markers to write “KKK” and “White Power” on him.

If convicted under the federal hate crime statute, the men each could face up to 10 years in prison. The possible sentence could increase to life if prosecutors prove kidnapping occurred.

State prosecutors earlier charged the trio with kidnapping, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery.

Hatch, the first to be tried in state District Court, was convicted Friday of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Jurors acquitted him of the other, more serious charges.

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May 6, 2011 — Jury Finds Man Guilty of One Count in Swastika Branding Case

The first of three defendants accused of branding a swastika into the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man was convicted Friday of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery.

An 11th District Court jury in Aztec found William Hatch, 29, guilty after deliberating for much of the day.

Jurors acquitted Hatch of more serious charges, including kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

Hatch and two others were accused of branding Vincent Kee, 22, shaving the back of his head with a swastika symbol and using a marker to scribe obscenities on his backside in April 2010.

Hatch’s co-defendants face trials later. All three also are to be tried in federal court as the first in the nation to be charged under a 2009 law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute people for hate crimes.

Kee testified Thursday his skin felt like it was melting as someone burned the Nazi symbol on his arm, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

Hatch declined to take the stand before the defense rested its case Thursday, the newspaper reported.

The federal case had been scheduled to go to trial in April but prosecutors decided to wait until the state trials were complete. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque said the trial has been tentatively set for Oct. 3.

If convicted under the federal hate crime statute, each defendant could face prison terms of up to 10 years. The possible sentence could increase to life if prosecutors prove kidnapping occurred.

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May 6, 2011, 6:05 p.m.

The first of three defendants accused of branding a swastika into the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man has been convicted on one count.

A jury in Aztec found William Hatch guilty of conspiracy to commit aggravated battery.

Jurors on Friday acquitted the 29-year-old of more serious charges, including kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

Hatch and two others are accused of branding 22-year-old Vincent Kee, shaving the back of his head with a swastika symbol and using a marker to scribe obscenities on his backside in April 2010.

Hatch’s co-defendants face trials later.

All three also face federal charges as the first in the nation to be charged under a 2009 law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute people for hate crimes.

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May 6, 2011 3:05 p.m. — Jury Deliberates in Swastika Branding Case

A jury in Aztec Friday was deliberating the case against a man accused of branding a swastika into the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man.

William Hatch, 29, is charged in state court with felony kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

Hatch and two others are accused of branding Vincent Kee, 22, shaving the back of his head with a swastika symbol and using a marker to scribe obscenities on his backside in April 2010.

Hatch’s co-defendants face trials later. All three also are to be tried in federal court as the first in the nation to be charged under a 2009 law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute people for hate crimes.

Kee testified Thursday his skin felt like it was melting as someone burned the Nazi symbol on his arm, the Farmington Daily Times reported.

Hatch declined to take the stand before the defense rested its case Thursday, the newspaper reported.

The Navajo Human Rights Commission, which observed the trial, said the case was sent to jurors Friday.

The federal case had been scheduled to go to trial in April but prosecutors decided to wait until the state trials were complete. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque said the trial has been tentatively set for Oct. 3.

If convicted under the federal hate crime statute, each defendant could face prison terms of up to 10 years. The possible sentence could increase to life if prosecutors prove kidnapping occurred.

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May 6, 2011 1:10 p.m.

A jury in Aztec is deciding the case against a man accused of branding a swastika into the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man.

The Farmington Daily Times reports that jurors began deliberating Friday in the trial of William Hatch, who is charged in state court with felony kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

He and his two co-defendants also face federal charges, in addition to the state counts.

Vincent Kee has testified that his skin felt like it was melting when he was burned with a wire hanger in April 2010.

All three are the first people in the nation to be charged under a 2009 law that makes it easier for the federal government to prosecute hate crimes.

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May 6, 2011 11:19 a.m. — Victim Testifies in Swastika Branding Case

A New Mexico man who was branded with a heated wire hanger in the shape of a swastika described the ordeal during testimony.

Vincent Kee told jurors his skin felt like it was melting as someone branded the Nazi symbol on his arm more than a year ago.

The 22-year-old testified Thursday during the second day of the trial in Aztec against 29-year-old William Hatch, who is charged in state court with felony kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and aggravated battery causing great bodily harm.

Hatch and two others are accused of branding Kee. Hatch’s co-defendants face trials later.

Hatch declined to testify Thursday in Aztec before the defense rested its case.

The Farmington Daily Times reported the jury was expected to hear closing arguments and begin deliberations Friday.

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May 5, 2011 — Defense Says Swastika Branding Was a Prank, Not a Crime

A jury has been selected and will begin weighing evidence against one of three men charged with branding a man with a coat hanger.

A defense attorney for 29-year-old William Hatch told jurors Wednesday in Aztec that his client got caught up in a prank that night and evidence will further show Hatch is not a criminal.

Hatch and two others face charges of felony kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping and aggravated battery.

The charges stem from an April 2010 incident in which the three men are arrested for kidnapping, branding and drawing degrading pictures, both sexual and racial on 22-year-old Vincent Kee.

The Farmington Daily Times reports 10 women and five men make up the jury. A conviction could lead to a lengthy prison term.

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5:55am 5/4/11 — First of Three Swastika Branding Trials Begins Today

More than a year after three men allegedly branded a swastika on the arm of an American Indian with mental disabilities, the first of three trials in the case begins today in Aztec, The Daily Times reported.

William Hatch, 29, is charged with first-degree felony kidnapping, second-degree conspiracy to commit kidnapping, third-degree aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and fourth-degree conspiracy to commit aggravated battery, The Daily Times said.

If convicted of all charges, Hatch could get more than 30 years in state prison for the April 29, 2010 incident in which Hatch and 27-year-old Paul Beebe and 25-year-old Jesse Sanford allegedly branded Vincent Kee, 22, the paper reported.

All three, who face identical charges, also are accused of shaving a swastika on the back of the man’s head and drawing degrading pictures and speech on the man’s body, including a pentagram, devil horns and the words “White Power,” according to court records.

Hatch, who is part Sioux and part Navajo, is a registered member of the Rosebud Sioux Nation, his defense attorney Eric Morrow said.

The District Attorney’s Office is pursuing hate crime enhancements against the three men, focusing primarily on Kee’s mental state and not just race, Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien told The Daily Times.

Six months after the three men were arrested, a federal grand jury indicted them on federal hate-crime charges, and their trials are expected to begin when their state trials are done, the paper reported.

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12:45pm 1/11/11 — Swastika Branding Suspect Rejects Plea Deal: 29-year-old Fruitland man was about to plead guilty to charges in April 2010 incident.

William Hatch, 29, one of three men accused of branding a swastika on the arm of a Navajo man with mental disabilities, backed away from a plea agreement three days before he was scheduled to plead guilty before a state district judge, The Daily Times reported.

Hatch, of Fruitland, signed a written plea agreement on Jan. 2 in which he had agreed to plead no contest to attempted kidnapping and conspiracy to commit kidnapping in connection with an April 29 incident, both second-degree felonies that carry a prison term of up to nine years on each count, The Daily Times said.

But last Friday Hatch told his attorney Eric Morrow he’d changed his mind, the paper reported.

“He made a clear determination he wanted a trial,” Morrow said. “There was no intent to kidnap and no intent to conspire to kidnap. When he signed, he had great difficulty signing his name with those things attached.”

Morrow said the plea deal in state court was directly tied to a possible plea to federal hate-crimes charges, and said his rejection of the state agreement was as much a rejection of the federal plea, The Daily Times said.

Chief District Judge John Dean on Monday questioned Hatch’s change of mind, the paper reported.

“I was assured by the parties this matter was going to plea,” said Dean, who had vacated Hatch’s trial date, originally set for Jan. 5, when hearing of the possible plea agreement.

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6:30pm 11/22/10 — Fruitland Man Pleads Not Guilty in Swastika Branding

A New Mexico man pleaded not guilty Monday to federal hate-crime charges in the case of a mentally disabled Navajo man who had a swastika branded on his arm with a hot metal clothes hanger.

William Hatch, 29, of Fruitland and two other defendants are the first to be prosecuted by the federal government under a historic 2009 law targeting hate crimes involving disabilities or sexual orientation.

Hatch entered the plea during his initial appearance at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque.

Paul Beebe, 26, and Jesse Sanford, 25, both of Farmington, also appeared but had no attorneys and didn’t enter pleas. U.S. Magistrate Robert Scott indicated he would have lawyers appointed to represent both men then scheduled their arraignments for Tuesday.

All three defendants wore orange inmate jumpsuits, with their hands and feet shackled.

Along with the branding in April, the three men are accused of shaving a swastika onto the back of the 22-year-old man’s head and using markers to write “KKK” and “White Power” on him.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto Ortega said the case is the first in the nation to be pursued by the Justice Department under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

The law was named after two men who were murdered in 1998 in Wyoming and Texas. The statute expanded a 1969 federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s disability, gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

Shepard was a gay Wyoming college student who was beaten and found dead tied to a fence post. Byrd was a black man who was chained to a pickup truck by three white men and dragged to his death.

Indictments in the New Mexico case were handed down on Nov. 12.

Hatch, Beebe and Sanford also face state charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery and conspiracy. The federal and state cases will run simultaneously, and federal prosecutors plan to work closely with the District Attorney’s Office in Farmington.

If convicted of the hate crime statute, each defendant could face prison terms of up to 10 years. The possible sentence could increase to life if prosecutors prove kidnapping occurred.

Each also faces a conspiracy charge, which carries a possible five-year prison sentence upon conviction.

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Monday, 22 November 2010 12:53

A New Mexico man has pleaded not guilty to federal hate-crime charges in the case of a mentally disabled Navajo man who had a swastika branded on his arm.

William Hatch of Fruitland entered the plea Monday at the federal courthouse in Albuquerque.

Two co-defendants, Paul Beebe and Jesse Sanford, both of Farmington, were not represented by an attorney and U.S. Magistrate Robert Scott planned to have lawyers appointed for them. The judge scheduled arraignment Tuesday for Beebe and Sanford.

Besides branding a swastika on the Navajo man’s arm using a heated metal clothes hanger, the three are accused of shaving a swastika onto the back of the 22-year-old man’s head and using markers to write “KKK” and “White Power” on him.

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Friday, 12 November 2010 17:45

Three Farmington-area men who allegedly kidnapped a Navajo man with developmental disabilities, burned a swastika on his arm with a heated coat hanger and used a cell phone to record it are now facing federal hate crimes charges.

Paul Beebe, 22, William Hatch, 29, and Jesse Sanford, 25, are charged in a grand jury indictment with conspiring to commit the offense last April in violation of a federal hate crimes law enacted in October 2009.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act criminalizes violent acts, and attempts to commit violent acts with a dangerous weapon, when they occur because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin of any person.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said the case is the first in New Mexico, and he believes the first in the nation, under the new section of the federal law, which has a broader reach than the previous hate crimes law.

The crime is punishable by up to 10 years in prison. An enhancement is available, possibly upping the penalty to life in prison, if prosecutors can prove the victim was kidnapped.

“We believe the alleged conduct is squarely within the scope of this particular statute,” Gonzales said.

According to the indictment, Beebe encountered V.K., identified in previous news reports as 22-year-old Vincent Kee, at a McDonald’s restaurant on April 29 and took him to his apartment in Farmington. Kee functions at a diminished cognitive level because he was born with a severe developmental disability, according to the charges.

All three defendants worked at McDonald’s at the time. When Sanford and Hatch finished their shifts, they joined Beebe and Kee at the apartment, which displayed Nazi memorabilia and “white pride” items, the indictment said.

The three conspired to harm Kee because of his race, color and national origin, the indictment says.

It accuses Sanford of branding Kee with a swastika and drawing white supremacist symbols on him. After telling Kee they would draw feathers and “native pride” on his back, they drew a pentagram labeled “666″ and male genitalia with words, the document says.

The three also allegedly shaved a swastika into the back of Kee’s head, outlined the design in permanent marker and wrote “white power” and “KKK” within the lines and on his neck.

The indictment alleges they took advantage of his disability to get him to make a video in which he “asked” to be branded so their assault would appear consensual.

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Friday, 12 November 2010 12:43

Three men accused of using a heated wire coat hanger to brand a swastika on the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo Nation man in Farmington in April have been indicted by a federal grand jury, The Daily Times reported.

The Farmington newspaper said the indictment of Paul Beebe, 27, William Hatch, 29, and Jesse Sanford, 25, was announced by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Martinez in a news release.

The news release said the three men each face one count of conspiracy and one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, The Daily Times reported.

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Friday, 29 October 2010 11:39

Attorneys for two of the three men accused of using a heated coat hanger to brand a swastika on the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man claim the victim is not competent.

Lawyers for defendants William Hatch and Paul Beebe have filed a motion asking a judge to declare Vincent Kee incompetent.

Kee is the state’s main witness.

According to the Farmington Daily Times, defense attorneys Eric Morrow and Cosme Ripol say Kee has the mental capacity of a young child and his memory “has been corrupted by well-meaning adults around him.”

Prosecutor Dustin O’Brien says the issue should be about credibility, not competency, and a jury determines whether a witness is credible.

Hatch, Beebe and Jess Sanford face kidnapping, aggravated battery and conspiracy charges in the April 29 incident.

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Tuesday, 20 July 2010 05:53

At least one of the three men charged with kidnapping and branding a swastika on a mentally disabled Native American man in Farmington on April 30 could face federal kidnapping and hate-crime charges as well, The Daily Times reported.

Paul Beebe, 26; Jesse Sanford, 24; and William Hatch, 28, are accused of kidnapping and branding a swastika on Vincent Kee, 22, on April 30, and are charged with kidnapping, aggravated battery, causing great bodily harm and other felonies in state court and could be charged with hate-crime enhancements as well, prosecutors told The Daily Times.

Beebe’s attorney Cosme Ripol told The Daily Times his client had received a letter from the U.S. Attorney’s Office to appear before a federal grand jury on July 13 to determine whether he assaulted the man because of his “race and/or disability,” but Beebe is in custody at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center and didn’t attend the hearing.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office wouldn’t comment on whether an indictment had been returned against Beebe or the other defendants, the paper reported.

If convicted of first-degree kidnapping with a hate-crime enhancement in federal court, Beebe could face 40 years to life in prison, Ripol told The Daily Times.

A first-degree kidnapping conviction in state court carries an 18-year prison sentence, the paper reported.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Dustin O’Brien told The Daily Times that if convicted in both courts, a defendant usually serves time in state prison, then is transferred to federal prison.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Three San Juan County men, accused of using a hot wire hanger to brand a mentally disabled Navajo man on the arm with a swastika, will stand trial in state District Court.

Magistrate Stanley King determined Wednesday there was enough evidence to order 24-year-old Jesse Sanford of Farmington to be tried on charges of kidnapping, aggravated battery, causing great bodily harm and other felonies.

King heard testimony from the victim, who also had a swastika shaved on the back of his head, and police detectives. A defense attorney argued there wasn’t enough evidence to support the kidnapping and conspiracy charges.

Two other defendants, 28-year-old William Hatch of Fruitland and 24-year-old Paul Beebe of Farmington, waived their preliminary hearings and were bound over for trial.

The three men remain jailed on $150,000 bond.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Police found white supremacist wall hangings and other materials in a Farmington apartment where three men allegedly used a hot coat hanger to brand a swastika on the arm of a mentally disabled Navajo man, court records show.

Prosecutors plan to seek hate-crime sentencing enhancements against the three alleged attackers, who police say also shaved a swastika into the victim’s hair and drew racist and obscene words and pictures on his body.

Police seized cell-phone videos in which one of the attackers repeatedly asked the victim if he wanted to get branded, according to arrest affidavits filed in San Juan County Magistrate Court.

The victim, 22, responded by saying “ya” or “yes, sir,” which police said showed “pleasing behavior” by the victim toward his attackers, according to the affidavit.

Police arrested Jesse Sanford, 24, William Hatch, 28, and Paul Beebe, 26, each with four felony counts of kidnapping, aggravated battery and other charges. The three remained jailed Monday each on a $150,000 cash-only bond.

Police who searched Beebe’s apartment on April 30 found a variety of swastika wall hangings and pendants and ball caps embroidered with the words “White Pride,” the affidavit said.

Chief Deputy District Attorney Sarah Weaver said each man faces up to 35 years if convicted on all counts with the hate-crime enhancement.

“We’re treating it as a hate crime because we believe there is evidence that hate, either based on race or disability, was the motivation for the crime,” Weaver said Monday.

The victim arrived in Farmington by bus on April 29 from his home town of Navajo when he met the three attackers at a Farmington fast-food restaurant where the three worked, police said.

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Monday, May 10, 2010

A magistrate on Monday left bond at $150,000 each for three men accused of branding a swastika on the arm of a mentally challenged Navajo man with a heated metal clothes hanger.

The trio, 24-year-old Jesse Sanford of Farmington, 28-year-old William Hatch of Fruitland and 26-year-old Paul Beebe of Farmington had been arrested Friday.

The District Attorney’s Office is considering charging them with a hate crime.

They are charged with kidnapping, conspiracy to commit kidnapping, aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Beebe also is charged with tampering with evidence.

The men, all white, are accused of branding the 22-year-old Navajo man, shaving a swastika into his hair and drawing degrading words and pictures on his body with permanent marker.

 

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