Police Officers, Teens Indicted in Fatal Beating Classified As Hate Crime

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Washington, DC—Three Shenandoah, Pennsylvania police officers are among five people have been indicted on charges related to a hate crime homicide which took place over a year ago in a rural region of the state.

Luis Ramirez, an undocumented Mexican immigrant, was beaten into a coma after being baited and taunted by a group of teenagers who had been out drinking. Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky are accused of a hate crime for shouting racial slurs at Ramirez during the attack. Piekarsky allegedly kicked Ramirez in the head when he was lying on the ground. The medical examiner later ruled that Ramirez died from this blunt force trauma to the head.

Donchak is also charged with conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses, as are Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lieutenant William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes. According to the indictment, the police intentionally failed to “memorialize or record” statements that Piekarsky made about the beating, and that their reports “intentionally omitted information about the true nature of the assault and the investigation.”

Two of the police officers have connections to the teens involved in the attack of Ramirez. Hayes was dating Piekarsky’s mother, and Moyer had a son who played high school football with the students who were involved in the fatal beating.

In June, an all-white jury convicted both Piekarsky and Donchak of misdemeanor simple assault, and convicted Donchak of corrupting minors for providing alcohol to the other teens, but acquitted them on charges of aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and hindering apprehension. Piekarsky was also acquitted of third-degree murder. Each received a sentence of up to 23 months in the county jail.

After this verdict, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell sent a letter to United States Attorney General Eric Holder, asking that the Justice Department pursue civil rights charges. A petition calling for hate crimes prosecution was signed by 50,000 people.

A federal grand jury issued the indictments last week, and they were unsealed a few days later. If convicted of the hate crime charges, Donchak and Piekarsky may receive sentences of life in prison. Donchak could also face a maximum of 20 years in prison on the obstruction charges, and five years on the conspiracy charge.

Nestor, Moyer and Hayes could face up to 20 years in prison for each of the obstruction charges, if convicted, and five years on the charges of conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer is also charged with making false statements to the FBI, and could face an additional five years if convicted on that charge.

 

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