Kirtland man convicted of kidnapping

Steve Garrison
Brandon Lee attends a court hearing on Wednesday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec. Lee was found guilty of first-degree felony kidnapping on Thursday.

FARMINGTON — Brandon Lee was convicted at a jury trial Thursday of first-degree felony kidnapping and misdemeanor battery and now faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 22 years in prison.

Lee, 29, of Kirtland, was accused of kidnapping 30-year-old Crystal Begaye from her home in Upper Fruitland on Dec. 22, 2014, and beating her with  brass knuckles, according to The Daily Times archives.

Lee allegedly drove the woman to an ATM and demanded she withdraw money, but she refused, archives state. Begaye managed to escape Lee's vehicle by jumping out, but was seriously injured when the vehicle ran over her, archives state.

San Juan County Sheriff's Office deputies located Lee at a Farmington motel a week after the incident , according to the archives. Lee allegedly jumped from a second-story balcony in an attempt to escape arrest, archives state.

Lee was expected to enter into a plea deal on Wednesday to resolve the charges, but the state withdrew its plea offer after Begaye said she did not support it.

Brandon Lee attends a hearing on Wednesday at the Eleventh Judicial District Court in Aztec.

Under the deal, Lee would have pleaded guilty to a fourth-degree felony and faced a maximum sentence of 18 months.

Prosecutors started the process for the plea agreement after Begaye missed a pre-trial meeting. Assistant District Attorney John Beckstead said San Juan County Sheriff's Detective Andy Gilbert "went above and beyond" to locate Begaye, who said she missed the meeting  because she was scared.

Begaye testified against Lee at the trial, which was presided over by Judge Karen Townsend.

The jury reached its verdict in about three hours. A sentencing hearing for Lee had not yet been scheduled.

Lee faced a mandatory sentence of 18 years for the kidnapping charge, but four years were added to that because of two prior felonies on his record.

Lee was found not guilty of aggravated assault.

Steve Garrison covers crime and courts for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644.