The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 1      January 4, 2010

Cops charged of cover-up
in death of immigrant
(front page)
PHILADELPHIA, December 15—Federal indictments were handed down today against the police chief of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, two police officers, and two defendants tried in connection with the fatal beating of Luis Ramírez, an immigrant worker, in July 2008.

Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes are charged with conspiracy and falsifying documents. Lieutenant Moyer is also charged with witness tampering, destroying evidence, and lying to the FBI.

Nestor is in jail and has been denied bail. The three cops are scheduled to go on trial February 16.

Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, previously tried in the death of Ramírez, were indicted on federal hate crime charges. Donchak is also accused of lying and conspiring with police to cover up the crime. They are scheduled to appear in federal court December 22 for a bail hearing.

Ramírez, a 25-year-old Mexican-born worker, died of severe head trauma July 14, 2008, two days after being beaten to the ground and kicked in the head by several Shenandoah youth, including Piekarsky and Donchak.

Ramírez had worked for six years in the factories and fields of northeastern Pennsylvania, an anthracite coal-mining region.

The assailants yelled racial slurs during the attack, said eyewitnesses. At the preliminary hearing, Eileen Burke testified that she heard Piekarsky yell at a friend of Ramírez at the scene, “Tell your … Mexican friends to get the f out of Shenandoah or you’ll be laying next to him.”

During the trial the prosecution showed a photo of Donchak at a Halloween party three months after Ramírez’s death. He was wearing a T-shirt with the words “U.S. Border Patrol” written on it. Donchak had been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon—a metal device in his fist while punching Ramírez.

In May, an all-white jury acquitted Piekarsky of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation and Donchak of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault, a misdemeanor, and are in the Schuylkill County Prison. Piekarsky is scheduled to be released in December.

Following the federal indictments, Crystal Dillman, who was the fiancée of Ramírez, said in a statement, “I truly believe in my heart that Luis can now rest a bit more peacefully knowing that these criminals and accomplices are being charged.”

Thomas Saenz, president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), said in a press release, “These indictments are an encouraging step toward obtaining a measure of justice for the victims of this heinous crime—Luis Ramírez and his surviving loved ones.” MALDEF organized support for Ramírez’s family during the trial. After the verdicts, the organization led a national petitioning campaign asking the U.S. Department of Justice to further investigate the case.
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