ALBUQUERQUE, Aug. 18 (UPI) — Two New Mexico men pleaded guilty Thursday to hate crimes in a racially motivated attack on a developmentally disabled Navajo man, federal prosecutors said.
Paul Beebe, 27, and Jesse Sanford, 25, had entered Alford pleas last month in state court, where they were accused of branding a swastika and drawing pictures on the victim. Under their pleas, they conceded the state had enough evidence to secure a conviction if they were tried but did not admit guilt.
The U.S. Department of Justice said Thursday Beebe pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act and Sanford pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the act.
A third defendant, William Hatch, of Fruitland, N.M., pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime in the case.
The victim, Vincent Kee, 22, has fetal alcohol syndrome. Prosecutors said Beebe, Sanford and Hatch kidnapped Kee and drew pictures on his skin that were sexually and racially degrading, in addition to the branding.
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.
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.