By July 30, 2013 2 Comments Read More →

The Luis Ramirez Beating Death Verdict Is a Model For Federal Prosecution of George Zimmerman

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By Micah Naziri

Think the Zimmerman verdict was the end? Think again! There is not only hope for putting Zimmerman behind bars still, there is legal precedence for it. Bear with me as I recount for you the story of the beating death of Luis Ramirez and the acquittal of his assailants…

Prosecutors called the beating death of an illegal immigrant from Mexico a hate crime, and they urged the all-white jury in Pennsylvania coal country to punish two white teenagers for their roles in the attack… But as you might imagine, that jury did nothing of the sort. Instead, they found the teens not guilty of all serious charges, a decision that elicited cheers and claps from the defendants’ families and friends, and cries of outrage from the victim’s loved ones.

Brandon Piekarsky, 17, was acquitted of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation, while Derrick Donchak, 19, was acquitted of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault following a trial in which jurors were left to sort out the facts of an epithet-filled brawl that pitted popular football players against a 25-year-old Hispanic man, Luis Ramirez, who appeared willing to fight.

The two were acquitted of murder charges in state court and convicted of simple assault. That seemed to be the end of it…

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A representative of Ramirez’s family said the jurors got it wrong.

“There’s been a complete failure of justice,” said Gladys Limon, staff attorney for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, who attended the trial and informed Ramirez’s family of the verdict. “It’s just outrageous and very difficult to understand how any juror could have had reasonable doubt.”

The group’s interim president, Henry Solano, called on the Justice Department to “bring justice to the Ramirez family and send a strong message that violence targeting immigrants will not be tolerated.” Piekarsky’s attorney declined comment on the possibility of federal charges against the teens.

Prosecutors had cast Ramirez as the victim of a gang of drunken white teens motivated by a dislike of their small coal town’s growing Hispanic population. They said he was killed by a kick to the head from Piekarsky after he’d been knocked unconscious by another teen.

The jury evidently sided with defense attorneys, who called Ramirez the aggressor and characterized the brawl as a street fight that ended tragically.

Jury foreman Eric Macklin said he sympathized with Ramirez’s loved ones but that the evidence pointed to an acquittal.

“I feel bad for Luis’s friends and family. I know they feel they haven’t gotten justice,” he said.

The case exposed ethnic tensions in Shenandoah, a blue-collar town of 5,000 that has lured Hispanic residents drawn by cheap housing and jobs in nearby factories and farm fields. Ramirez moved to the town about seven years ago from Iramuco, Mexico, working in a factory and picking strawberries and cherries.

The fight began late July 12 when a half-dozen teens, all Shenandoah residents who played football at Shenandoah Valley High School, were walking home from a block party and came across Ramirez and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park.

Brian Scully, 18, asked the girl, “Isn’t it a little late for you to be out?” That enraged Ramirez, who began yelling in Spanish and dialing friends on his cell phone. Scully admitted shouting ethnic slurs. The verbal sparring soon turned into a physical altercation as Ramirez and Piekarsky traded blows, though prosecutors and defense attorneys disputed who threw the first punch.

Donchak then entered the fray and wound up on top of Ramirez. Prosecutors said he pummeled Ramirez, holding a small piece of metal in his fist to give his punches more power. Defense attorneys said Donchak tried to break up the fight between Piekarsky and Ramirez and denied he had a weapon.

The two sides eventually went their separate ways. But Scully kept yelling slurs at Ramirez, leading the immigrant to charge after the group.

Colin Walsh, 17, then hit Ramirez, knocking him out.

“Does Mr. Ramirez fit the description of an innocent soul who just happened to get picked on by a group of kids?” Piekarsky defense attorney Fred Fanelli asked jurors in closing arguments. “He’s the only adult, and he makes some bad choices.”

The sort of accusations lobbed at Ramirez were immediately called to mind by all familiar with the case, when history seemed to repeat itself in the prosecution of George Zimmerman, after he shot Trayvon Martin. Just as in the Zimmerman case, the killers thought they were out of the water. The racist and xenophobic factions which supported these boys in the Ramirez beating death thought that was the end of it, just as so many do today in the acquittal of Zimmerman. “Just accept the verdict,” “there is nothing that can be done now” are just some of the things supports of Justice for Trayvon can be heard saying. But what happened next in the Ramirez beating proves that they are wrong… there’s a lot that can still be done…

Two years later, in 2011, Derrick Donchak, of Shenandoah, and Brandon Piekarsky, of Shenandoah Heights, were found guilty in federal court in October of several charges, including hate crimes and depriving the victim Luis Ramirez of his civil rights.

Derrick Donchak, of Shenandoah, and Brandon Piekarsky, of Shenandoah Heights, were found guilty in federal court in October of several charges, including hate crimes and depriving the victim Luis Ramirez of his civil rights.

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Three former Pennsylvania police officers were also charged, accused of trying to cover up the incident, with mixed results…

In January, a federal jury found former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and officers William Moyer and Jason Hayes not guilty of conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation in Ramirez’s July 2008 death.

Nestor, however, was found guilty of falsifying reports, and Moyer was convicted of lying to the FBI.

Hayes, who was also accused of falsifying police reports, was acquitted of the two charges against him.

You thought the Zimmerman verdict was then end? It’s only the end if you’ve given up. Some of us are just getting started. SPREAD THE WORD and let’s KEEP THE PRESSURE ON!

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2 Comments on "The Luis Ramirez Beating Death Verdict Is a Model For Federal Prosecution of George Zimmerman"

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  1. Diva D says:

    It is good to know that there is still something that can be done to punish Zimmerman and make him pay for what he did. We must not give up an should continue to fight and protest for justice to be done.

    Don’t get me wrong when I wrote “fight” I don’t mean physically, I mean by rallies, letters to you state congressman, in other words let you voice and economical influence do the fighting for you.

  2. Missbehave says:

    Except Zimmerman was in Florida where all crimes go forgiven.

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