5 indicted – including 3 coppers – in hate crime


Luis Ramirez with his fiancee, Crystal Dillman, before his murder
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted on charges related to the beating death of a Latino man in rural Pennsylvania in July 2008…

The indictments come almost six months after a Schuylkill County jury acquitted two teens of aggravated assault and one of murder in the death of Luis Ramirez.

The undocumented Mexican immigrant was beaten into a coma during a street brawl involving the teens and their friends on a residential street in Shenandoah. The incident divided the small, rural mining town along racial lines and became a flash point for racial tensions nationwide.

After the verdict, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell denounced the attack as racially motivated and called on the Justice Department to intervene.

A federal grand jury handed up the indictments last week, and they were unsealed Tuesday. The two young men, Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky, are accused of a hate crime for beating Ramirez while shouting racial epithets at him, according to the department.
If convicted of hate crime charges, Donchak and Piekarsky face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donchak also faces a maximum of 20 years in prison if convicted of obstruction, and an additional five years on the charge of conspiring to obstruct justice.

Donchak also faces three counts of conspiring to obstruct justice and related offences. He is accused of attempting to orchestrate a coverup with members of the Shenandoah Police Department, the Justice Department said.

Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice in the Ramirez investigation. Moyer faces additional charges of witness and evidence tampering and making false statements to the FBI.
Nestor, Moyer and Hayes intentionally failed to “memorialize or record” statements made by Piekarsky about the incident, and “wrote false and misleading official reports” that “intentionally omitted information about the true nature of the assault and the investigation,” the indictment said.

A tragic example of bigotry grounded in a community and its officials – not just points on a compass. The first thing I learned in the civil rights movement – decades ago – is that you can be killed just as dead by a bigot in the North as the South. And the cop pulling up outside your home might not be there to help you.

Fortunately, sometimes you can find a good cop to help you deal with the bad cop.

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