Swastika Case First to Use Hate-Crimes Law

NM defendants face 10 years to life for branding Navajo man
By Aaron Cowan,  Newser User
Posted Nov 29, 2010 6:41 PM CST Posted Nov 29, 2010 6:41 PM CST
Promoted on Newser Nov 30, 2010 10:58 AM CST
Swastika Case Is First To Be Tried Under New Law
William Hatch, who has pleaded not guilty to a federal hate-crime charge. Hatch is one of three men accused of branding a swastika on a mentally disabled Navajo man's arm using a heated metal clothes hanger.   (AP Photo/Farmington Police Department)

Three off-duty McDonald's workers accused of burning a swastika into the skin of a mentally disabled customer with a hot coat hanger will be charged under new hate crimes legislation, the AP reports. Under the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the defendants could face 10 years in prison, or up to a life sentence, if prosecutors are able to prove kidnapping as well.

The victim, a 22-year-old Navajo man, also had a swastika shaved into the back of his head and markers were used to draw symbols including a pentagram and a penis onto his body. Race relations remain tense in predominantly white Farmington, NM, which sits close to a Navajo reservation. "There will always be people who just don't get it," says the town's mayor. "They're not going to change their attitudes and at some point they'll carry out their beliefs in a way we all find real troubling." (More swastikas stories.)

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