Two plead guilty in swastika branding case
The first men charged under a federal law that specifically banned hate crimes against disabled people pleaded guilty Thursday to branding a swastika on the arm of a Navajo man.
“Just when you think you’ve seen it all, along comes a case that shocks the conscience,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who oversees the Justice Department’s civil rights division.
The pleas were entered by Paul Beebe, 28, and Jesse Sanford, 26, both of Farmington, to charges filed under the 2009 law that expanded civil rights protections to specifically include violence based on gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The law also eliminated a requirement that a victim must be engaged in a federally protected activity such as voting or attending school.
Perez said Beebe and Sanford exploited the man’s mental disability and “defamed his body with the most obvious symbol of hate.”
Another defendant, 29-year-old William Hatch, pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime.
The three men were charged in November under the federal hate crimes law for burning the swastika onto the arm of Vincent Kee with a metal coat hanger.