Two plead guilty in swastika branding case

July 20, 2011 at 4:00 PM

AZTEC, N.M., July 20 (UPI) -- Two young New Mexico men face more than 8 years in prison for branding a swastika and drawing pictures on a Navajo man, authorities said.

Paul Beebe, 27, and Jesse Sanford, 25, entered Alford pleas Tuesday, The Daily Times of Farmington reported. Under their pleas, they conceded the state had enough evidence to secure a conviction if they were tried but did not admit guilt.

The victim, Vincent Kee, 22, has fetal alcohol syndrome. Prosecutors said Beebe, Sanford and a third man, William Hatch, kidnapped Kee and drew pictures on hi skin that were sexually and racially degrading, in addition to the branding. Hatch was convicted of one comparatively minor charge at trial and acquitted of all other counts.

The state agreed that Sanford and Beebe will be sentenced to no more than 8 1/2 years in prison. They faced up to 34 years if convicted of all charges.

Both men have also been charged with a federal hate crime. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elizabeth Martinez would say only that they are scheduled to be tried in October.

Terry Walker, Sanford's lawyer, described him as a "fairly immature young man" at the time of the attack on Kee and said he has grown up.

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