FARMINGTON — The first application of a law that was created to protect homosexuals, minorities and people with mental disabilities came full circle after two Farmington men who branded a swastika on the arm of a Navajo man were sentenced in federal court in Santa Fe.

Paul Beebe, 28, Jesse Sanford, 26, and William Hatch, were arrested in Farmington in May 2010 after they used a wire coat hanger to burn the flesh of an American Indian man who suffers from mental disabilities.

On Wednesday, Beebe was sentenced to eight and a half years and Sanford to five years in federal prison for violating the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act and conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime respectively. Violation of the act carries up to 10 years in prison, but Beebe's prison term was predetermined under an Aug. 19 plea agreement. Sanford, who pleaded guilty the same day, was sentenced to the maximum time allowed for the conspiracy charge.

"Today the court sentenced Paul Beebe and Jesse Sanford to significant terms of imprisonment for the inexcusable crime of assaulting, branding and scarring a young man simply because he happened to be Native American," U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales stated in a prepared release.

Both men faced life in prison for the federal charges and more than 35 years in state prison.

All three men initially were charged at the state level with first-degree felony kidnapping, second-degree felony conspiracy to commit kidnapping, third-degree felony aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and fourth-degree felony conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. Beebe also faced charges of tampering with evidence.

Hatch pleaded guilty in federal court earlier last year, in June, to conspiracy to commit a federal hate crime. He has yet to be sentenced. Hatch was the only one of the trio to take his state charges to trial. A jury in May found Hatch guilty of the fourth-degree felony, the least punishable offense.

Beebe and Sanford both pleaded guilty in state district court July 19 under an Alford plea. They are expected to be sentenced Feb. 14.

The three men claimed they were playing a prank on Kee, but state prosecutors believed, in addition to being motivated by race, the incident also was spurred by Kee's mental disability. He suffers from fetal-alcohol syndrome.

All three men were arrested by Farmington police officers in May 2010, days after the incident. Beebe brought Kee, who was seeking a place to stay for the night, to his Farmington apartment where they shoved a towel in Kee's mouth and branded him.

They claim Kee wanted the branding. Despite the Nazi paraphernalia that was evident throughout Beebe's apartment, the men claim the branding symbol represents the American Indian rolling waters symbol.

Drawn on Kee in permanent marker were the words "White Power" and "KKK," according to court records.

"I feel that this scar on my arm is for life," Kee told a group of reporters outside the federal courthouse in Albuquerque during the August plea hearings. "They just had fun with me."

The trio took a video of the branding with a cell phone, which they later played for law enforcement as proof of Kee's consent.

Kee, the next morning, went to the 7 to 11 on 20th Street, in Farmington, where he reported the incident to customers and later the police.

"Violence motivated by racial or ethnic hatred exacerbates fear and tears at the fabric of our society," Gonzales said. "Here in New Mexico, where we celebrate our ethnic, racial and cultural diversity, I will continue to work with the FBI to vigorously investigate and prosecute acts of violence that are motivated by hatred of another's race or ethnic heritage."