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Press Release

U.S. Attorney’s Office Presents Case Study on “Swastika Branding Case” During Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission’s Hate Crime Awareness Seminars

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Mexico
Two Awareness Seminars Sponsored by Office of Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission on June 20-21, 2018 in Albuquerque

ALBUQUERQUE – The U.S. Attorney’s Office is participating in two Hate Crime Awareness Seminars sponsored by the Office of Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission on June 20 and 21, 2018, in Albuquerque, N.M.  The first seminar is taking place today at the Albuquerque Indian Center at 105 Texas Street SE, and the second takes place tomorrow at Albuquerque & Bernalillo County Government Center.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is presenting on the federal prosecution of United States v. Paul Beebe, et al., 10-Cr-3104-MV (DNM), the first case to be charged under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Shepard/Byrd Act).  Three men from San Juan County, N.M., were indicted by a federal grand jury in Nov. 2010 under this law, which was enacted in October 2009, for their racially motivated assault on a 22-year-old developmentally disabled man of Navajo descent.

Court records reflect that the defendants took the victim to an apartment in Farmington, N.M., which was adorned in racist paraphernalia, including a Nazi flag and a woven dream catcher with a swastika in it.  After the victim had fallen asleep, the defendants defaced the victim’s body by drawing on him with blue, red and black markers.  When the victim awoke, one of the defendants branded the victim, who sat with a towel in his mouth, by heating a wire hanger on a stove and burning the victim’s flesh, causing a permanent deep impression of a swastika in his skin.  The defendants used a cell phone to create a recording of the victim in which they coerced him to agree to be branded.

The defendants also defaced the victim’s body with white supremacist and anti-Native American symbols, including shaving a swastika in the back of the victim’s head and using markers to write the words “KKK” and “White Power” within the lines of the swastika.  They also mocked the victim’s heritage by drawing an ejaculating penis and testicles on the victim’s back, telling him that they were drawing his “native pride feathers,” all the while recording the incident on a cell phone to later play for law enforcement, as “proof” that the victim consented to their acts.

All three defendants subsequently pled guilty to violating the Shepard/Byrd Act and served prison sentences.

The case study will be presented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Roberto D. Ortega, who prosecuted the case, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kyle T. Nayback, who supervises the Indian Country Crimes Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The agendas for the Hate Crime Awareness Seminars are attached.

Updated June 20, 2018

Civil Rights
Hate Crimes
Indian Country Law and Justice