Back in July, we blogged about the beating death of Luis Ramirez in the Shenandoah region of Pennsylvania. Many wondered if this would be a rallying cry for Latino politicians to come out swift against these racially motivated attacks. MALDEF even jumped in the fray adding comments to the original blog post, assuring us of their involvement, as some bloggers expressed concern about the organization’s ability to advocate on behalf of the victim in the case.
Yesterday, the AP reported this:
“POTTSVILLE, Pa. (AP) — An all-white jury on Friday acquitted two Pennsylvania teenagers of all serious charges against them stemming from the fatal beating of an illegal Mexican immigrant last summer.
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.”
And on Friday, after the jury verdict came in, MALDEF (note the corporate sponsor under the signage) released the following press release:
FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION
May 1, 2009
JUSTICE NOT SERVED: PENNSYLVANIA HATE CRIME ASSAILANTS FOUND NOT
Latino hate crime trial ends with ‘not guilty’ verdict
POTTSVILLE, PA – A jury in Schuylkill County found the two
defendants, Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, accused of beating
25-year-old Luis Ramirez to death, not guilty.
“Tonight there is no justice in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The jury’s
conclusion is an outrage. Luis Ramirez was brutally murdered.
Witnesses testified that it was racially motivated as a result of hate
and intolerance. In the week when Congress passed the Hate Crimes
Act, this verdict underscores the importance of the passage of this
Act. It is time for the Department of Justice to step in and bring
justice to the Ramirez family and send a strong message that violence
targeting immigrants will not be tolerated and will be prosecuted to
the full extent of the law,” stated Henry Solano, MALDEF interim
president and general counsel.
In July 2008, Ramirez lost his life after he was knocked unconscious
and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah teenagers who yelled
racial epithets before and during the brutal beating. Witnesses
overheard anti-Mexican and ethnic epithets shouted by his
assailants. At trial one of the witnesses testified that one of
Ramirez’s friends tried to stop the beating but one of the assailants
said, “Tell your Mexican friends to get out of town, or you’ll be
laying next to him.” Ramirez leaves behind his fiancée and their two
Brandon Piekarsky was charged with third-degree murder and Derrick
Donchak was charged with aggravated assault. Both were charged with
“Luis’s death reflects a steady increase of hate crimes targeting
Latinos. Since 2002, the FBI has documented a 40 percent increase in
hate crimes committed against Latinos,” said Gladys Limón, MALDEF
staff attorney. “This drastic rise of hate crimes against Latinos
must be addressed by the new Administration and Congress.”
Earlier this week, the U.S. House of Representatives took a historic
step forward and passed H.R. 1913, “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime
Prevention Act” by a vote of 249 to 175. The bill strengthens
existing federal hate crime laws by authorizing the Department of
Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting
certain bias-motivated crimes. MALDEF urges the Senate to act quickly
and pass the bill.
MALDEF will continue to work with the Ramirez family and the U.S.
Department of Justice to ensure that the actions of the defendants and
the death of Luis Ramirez is fully investigate as a hate crime.
Now as I have read about this case, the victim certainly wasn’t free of his own issues. It was revealed that he had an underage girlfriend in addition to the fiancee Crystal Dillman, and there were allegations of drug use on his end. However, I still cannot believe that the perpetrators were convicted of simple assault and nothing more. I think that this won’t do anything to ease the already high tensions in this small town. I do agree with MALDEF that justice was not served, but what do you think? I encourage you to share your thoughts in this blog post.
If you want to learn more about this trial, you can read a live blog from The Republican Herald. My colleague Megan, who works for The Republican Herald, was kind enough to send me the link.
Photo Credit: MALDEF Los Angeles Offices lobby sign, Wendy Carrillo