Justice Not Served: Pennsylvania Hate Crime Assailants Found Not Guilty

May 01, 2009

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 during the violent attack. A retired Philadelphia police officer testified during the preliminary hearing that she heard one of the attackers yell, "Tell your [expletive] Mexican friends to get the [expletive] out of Shenandoah or you’ll be [expletive] laying next to him." Ramirez leaves behind his fiancée and their two young children.

Brandon Piekarsky was charged with third-degree murder and Derrick Donchak was charged with aggravated assault. Both were charged with ethnic intimidation.

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.

“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.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund