Mixed Verdict in Police Cover-Up of Immigrant Beating Death
A federal jury in Pennsylvania yesterday convicted two former police officers of covering up the beating death of an undocumented Mexican immigrant by three white teenagers in the summer of 2008. A third former officer was acquitted. The jury delivered its verdict in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania in Wilkes-Barre following two days of deliberation.
Brandon Piekarsky, Derrick Donchak and Colin Walsh, three high school students and football buddies from the small town of Shenandoah, brutally murdered Luis Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, on July 12, 2008. The three teens punched and kicked Ramirez, shouting “Mexican” and “Spic” as they attacked.
The assault was so brutal that Ramirez suffered multiple fatal skull fractures. Ramirez managed to phone Victor Garcia, a friend who’d just dropped them off at a park, during the early stages of the attack to plea for help. When Garcia arrived, the beating was still in progress.
“People were still trying to kick him, stomp him,” he told the Scranton Times-Tribune. When police arrived on the scene, Garcia told them which way Ramirez’s attackers had run. Instead of chasing after them, officers ordered Garcia to empty his pockets. “They never went after the kids,” he says.
Shenandoah police lieutenant William Moyer allegedly phoned the mother of one of the teens who was present at the beating and told her that if her son owned any blue-gray sneakers he should get rid of them. He was found guilty of lying to the FBI but acquitted of other charges, including obstruction of justice. Local police chief Matthew Nestor, who was a friend of Brandon Piekarsky’s mother, was found guilty of falsifying records. He could face up to 20 years behind bars. He was acquitted of conspiracy. Patrolman Jason Hayes, who was dating Piekarsky’s mother, was acquitted of all charges.
As for the three teens, Piekarsky and Donchak were convicted of misdemeanor simple assault by an all-white jury at a state trial in May 2009 and given slaps on the wrist.
Racist and anti-immigrant sentiment run high in that part of Pennsylvania. Some area residents even blamed the wave of undocumented immigration for Ramirez’s death.
“Sorry to say it, but I think a large part of this is the lack of enforcement of illegal immigration,” Carol Sherman commented on the Scranton Times-Tribune website. “People are getting REALLY mad about it and then when something like this happens, of course it’s labeled RACIST. I doubt any of these kids would have any reason to dislike hispanics if they didn’t see alarming numbers of them day after day, in their faces, in their schools, in their hospitals, stores, etc., etc., etc. There’s going to be more and more situations like these if our government doesn’t do something about the onslaught of illegals which are everywhere- basically flaunting their illegal-ness in your face. And the media feeds off of stuff like this. Forget 9-11– why don’t we just thrown open our borders completely and let what happens happen? Let the world take over the US!”
Sherman’s shocking comment received nine “likes.”
The US government decided to charge the teens with hate crimes. Colin Walsh turned state’s witness, testifying against his former friends in exchange for leniency. He told the jury how Donchak often wore a “BORDER PATROL” t-shirt and listened to racist songs like “The White Man Marches On,” which glorify violence against minorities. According to Walsh, “he really didn’t like hispanics.” He wanted them out of his town.
Ironically, the rough-and-tumble town of Shenandoah is home to thousands of descendants of uneducated European immigrants who migrated there to work in the booming coal industry in the 19th and 20th centuries. The jury in the federal trial was once again all-white. But this time the teenagers were found guilty. They will be sentenced on February 23. Each defendant faces a possible life sentence.
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