Two men pleaded guilty yesterday to a lurid crime that earned New Mexico unwanted headlines: The racially motivated branding and marking of a developmentally disabled Navajo man, says the Albuquerque Journal. The case became the first in the nation prosecuted under a beefed-up federal hate crimes law that is being challenged on constitutional grounds. All three men involved in the crime already have pleaded or been found guilty on state charges.
Vincent Kee, 23, came into a McDonald's restaurant where all three men worked looking for a place to stay. Paul Beebe offered to let him stay at his apartment and took him there after work. The victim fell asleep on Beebe's couch.”I have a set of house rules that requires that if anybody falls asleep before 2 a.m. then we are allowed to draw on them,” said Beebe. Two men drew on his face and neck using markers the three used a heated coat hanger to burn a swastika on Kee's arm. They filmed their handiwork using a cellphone while telling Kee they were applying “Native Pride” and feathers. Assistant U.S. Attorney General Thomas Perez, who called the facts of the case “shocking to the conscience,” said the defacement and exploitation of the victim underscore the need for aggressive national enforcement of the law.