FARMINGTON — The second of the three men accused of attacking another man for being gay pleaded to the crime Monday in district court on reduced charges that dropped the one-year hate crime sentencing enhancement.

Jerry Paul, 40, pleaded no contest to false imprisonment, a fourth-degree felony, and misdemeanor aggravated battery. The Shiprock man faces more than two years in prison on the reduced charges.

"I thought (the plea) was fair given his role as I understood it," prosecutor Brent Capshaw said.

The victim, Matthew Shetima, reported the incident to Farmington Police in September 2007. While walking through an alley near the Journey Inn on Glade Lane, Shetima said he was called over to talk to several men who began hitting him, calling him "faggot."

When he fell, the men kicked him saying, "You want to die faggot?" arrest documents state. The victim was then allegedly pulled into the men's hotel room, where they continued to punch and kick him before he could escape.

Farmington Police responding to the incident identified Scott Thompson, 22, Craig Yazzie, 37, and Paul as being involved.

Because reduced charges were offered before the hate crime enhancement was added, Paul's offer remained on the table, and the hate crime enhancement was dropped, Capshaw said. Yazzie pleaded to the same charges in March.

"My guy's the least culpable in all this," said attorney Jack Fortner, representing Paul. "He basically battered him once and prevented him from leaving the room.



Prosecutors believe Thompson was the ringleader of the fight.

"As of right now, my focus is on Scott Thompson and I don't foresee backing off on the hate crime enhancement," Capshaw said.

Thompson, who was not offered the reduced plea, is set to have a jury trial May 2 on kidnapping and aggravated battery charges. If convicted of both charges with the hate crime enhancement, Thompson could face up to 14 years in prison.

Attorneys for both Paul and Thompson have expressed the hope of a probation sentence, rather than jail time.

"Since he's never been in trouble before, and he's employed, and he's in alcohol counseling, we're hoping he'll get a conditional discharge," Fortner said.

The sentencings won't be held until after the May jury trial.

Yazzie had been set to be sentenced Monday, but the matter was continued until June

That factor may benefit Paul, Fortner said, because District Judge John Dean would hear testimony of the limited role Paul played.

"The judge will definitely have heard the entire story after the Thompson trial and have that on his mind when he sentences the other two," Capshaw said.

James Monteleone: