Supreme Court declines hate crime case involving Navajo victim

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a challenge to a hate crime conviction involving a Navajo Nation victim.

William Hatch was convicted in New Mexico court for conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He participated in an April 2010 attack on a disabled Navajo man whose arm branded with a swastika and whose body was defaced with disparaging words and symbols.

Hatch was subsequently indicted in federal court under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. He pleaded guilty but reserved his right to appeal to challenge the validity of the law.

In July 2013, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Hatch's claim that the law violated the U.S. Constitution. The decision said Congress acted within its power under the 13th Amendment.

In the unanimous decision, the court said the "Thirteenth Amendment can be seen as treating most forms of racial discrimination as badges and incidents of slavery, and that Congress not only has the power to enforce the amendment, but also to a certain extent to define its meaning."

Hatch asked the Supreme Court to review the decision. a move supported by some legal scholars. But the justices declined his petition without comment in an order list yesterday.

Hatch is a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and is part Navajo. The 10th Circuit decision, however, describes him and two fellow perpetrators as "white."

The attack on the Navajo man occurred in Farmington -- not in Indian Country -- so Hatch's Indian status was not an issue in the state case. It also was not a factor in the federal case, which was the first of its kind under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

Hatch was sentenced to 18 months in the state case. In the federal case, he was sentenced 14 months, which ran concurrent with the state sentence.

The two other assailants received much longer terms in the federal case. Paul Beebe was sentenced to 102 months and Jesse Sanford was sentenced to 60 months.

Neither Beebe nor Sanford appealed their convictions in the federal case.

Hatch was sentenced in September 2011 and he already completed his prison term. However, he was sent back to prison for another three months in June 2013, The Farmington Daily Times reported, because he violated a condition of his probation by drinking alcohol.

Hatch's probation was due to end February 2015, the paper reported. But he was given another three years of supervised release due to the violation.

Get the Story:
Supreme Court refuses to hear hate crime case of man who branded swastika on mentally disabled Native American (AP 3/24)

An Opinion:
John Fund: Hate-Crime Laws and the Expansion of Federal Power (The National Review 3/18)

10th Circuit Decision:
US v. Hatch (July 3, 2013)

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Native Sun News: Plea deal reached for branding of Navajo man (8/18)
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Federal hate crimes charges for attack on disabled Navajo man (11/15)

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