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."