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Friday, November 12, 2010

Piekarsky, Donchak Guilty Of Hate Crime In Death Of Undocumented Worker

This article was first published by Tim Paynter as Two Guilty of Hate Crime In Immigrant’s Death on Technorati

luis ramirez

Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala fighting for his life

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The time is July 12th, 2008, just a week after the nation celebrated it’s independence. Several drunk football players including Brandon Piekarsky, Collin Walsh, Derrick Donchak, Joshua Redmond, Brian Scully and Ben Lawson ran into an undocumented immigrant and a friend, Roxanne Rector, in a public park in the mining town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. Luis Ramirez Zavala, an undocumented immigrant from central Mexico, was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Scully started the confrontation by saying to Rector, "Isn't it a little too late to be out?"  Ramirez Zavala began speaking in Spanish as he spoke with his friends on his cell phone. Scully later testified,  "I didn't understand him," Scully said. "So I didn't like it."

Scully called Ramirez a "Spic". Piekarsky stepped into the fray, trading blows with the undocumented immigrant, and was joined by Donchak, according to testimony by Scully. As the fight broke up Scully and Donchak continued to taunt Ramirez.

"Go home you Mexican fucker." Scully said. "Fuck you spic" Donchak yelled.

Scully claimed he was walking away when Ramirez jumped on top of him and started raining down blows. Joshua Redmond said it was Ramirez who was walking away and Piekarsky who tackled Ramirez.

In any event, Walsh stepped in and knocked Ramirez out cold. Scully admitted to trying to kick the unconscious man in the head but missed and kicked him in the shoulder. Piekarsky joined in the kicking fest, finally taking a field goal style kick landing a head blow so hard his shoe flew off.

Ramirez began to foam at the mouth and convulse, and the assailants ran away.  Ramirez died two days later at the hospital with multiple skull fractures.


Derrick Donchak

Shortly after the fight, most of the football players met at Donchak's house to discuss what had happened.  Soon, they were joined by Piekarsky with his mother following a few minutes behind.  Piekarsky had an ace up his sleeve.  His mother was dating Shenandoah police officer Jason Hayes.  She said Hayes had called to tell the boys to "get their stories straight" since Ramirez might die of his injuries.   The group discussed the assault and agreed "that nobody kicked him, we weren't drinking, and there were no racial slurs."  Lawson testified.



Police intimidation and a cover-up allegedly began almost immediately.  According to testimony, Hayes approached witnesses who knew Ramirez and gave them a terse warning:

"You'd better be quiet. You wanna be quiet, or I can put you in jail tonight,"

Jason Hayes allegedly intimidated witnesses

and falsified police reports

From that point on, Shenandoah Police allegedly helped the perpetrators by "filing false police reports". They participated in destruction of evidence, lying to the FBI and obstructing justice. Hayes worked with Piekarsky to place the blame for the beating first upon the victim himself, and then anywhere else possible. The defense insists it was Scully who delivered the fatal kick.

The football players almost got away with their plan. During the first trial in state court an all white jury acquitted Piekarsky of 3rd degree murder, and Donchak was acquitted of aggravated assault. Both were acquitted of ethnic intimidation. Instead, the jury found the two guilty of minor assault and alcohol charges. After the verdict Donchak said "There would be civil war" if there were reprisals.

Piekarsky and Donchak must have thought they had vamped the jury and pulled the wool over a not-so-inquiring public’s eyes. The sentence for the death of a human being was six months in jail. Donchak spent the bulk of his time in solitary confinement.

The sentence offended human rights activists, Latino groups and Pennsylvania Governor, Ed Rendell, A petition drive was launched by Presente and MALDEF. Over 23,000 signatures were obtained and pressure was placed upon Eric Holder, US Attorney General, to file the case under federal statutes.

Luis Ramirez holds one of his children

A case was finally filed against Piekarsky and Donchak under federal hate crimes statutes. Although some will complain about the double jeopardy standard, crimes can be prosecuted under both state and federal statutes.  On October 14th, the verdict came in. Guilty on all charges. Donchak, now 20, sobbed as the verdict was read. Piekarsky, who is now 18, buried his head in his hands. Both men were taken into custody pending sentencing which could put them in prison for life. Walsh plead earlier this year to a violation of federal hate crimes and testified against his pals.

Indictments have been handed down against ex-Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew R. Nestor, and police officers William Moyer and Jason Hayes.

Hate crimes in all forms are repugnant.  Members of the Latin King Goonies gang are facing the majority of their lives behind bars if convicted after sodomizing two Ecuadorian and two Mexican immigrants.  It is critical the immigrant community report incidents of hate crimes so that ugly people can face the music. 

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