Two teenagers and three police officers have been indicted after an investigation into a fatal Pennsylvania beating of an illegal immigrant.
The Justice Department announced today that a federal grand jury has returned multiple indictments arising out of a fatal racially-motivated beating and related police corruption in Shenandoah, Pa.
The three indictments include federal hate crime, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges.
Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky were charged with a hate crime for the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez while shouting racial epithets at him in July 2008.
Separate indictments accuse Shenandoah police chief, Matthew Nestor, and two officers under his command with a variety of charges, including witness tampering and lying to the FBI. The indictments were announced Tuesday at the Justice Department.
Nestor, Lt. William Moyer, and Officer Jason Hayes were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice during the investigation into the Ramirez beating. Moyer was charged with witness and evidence tampering, and lying to the FBI. All three pleaded not guilty Tuesday.
In an unrelated case, Jamie Gennarini, the police chief's second-in-command, was charged with extortion and civil rights violations. He is accused of extorting cash payoffs from illegal gambling operations, and demanding a $2,000 payment from a local businessman in 2007 to release him from their custody. Gennarini also pleaded not guilty Tuesday.
Four youths - including Donchak and Piekarsky - were previously charged in state court in connection with Ramirez's death. Piekarsky was acquitted by an all-white jury of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation; Donchak was acquitted of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault, which carry possible one- or two-year prison sentences.
The May verdicts were decried by Hispanic advocates who say Ramirez's death is part of a rising tide of hate crimes against Latinos.
The incident began when a half-dozen high school football players were headed home from a block party in the coal town of Shenandoah, which has attracted Hispanic immigrants with jobs in factories and farm fields. They came across Ramirez, 25, and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park.
An argument broke out and the football players hurled ethnic slurs, although lawyers disputed who said exactly what. Defense attorneys called Ramirez the aggressor.
Soon Ramirez and Brandon Piekarsky were trading punches. Derrick Donchak jumped in - his lawyers said to break up the fight - and wound up on top of Ramirez. Prosecutors said he pummeled Ramirez while gripping a small piece of metal to give his punches more power; defense attorneys denied he had a weapon.
The fight wound down but the argument continued. Ramirez charged the group. He was knocked out by a punch to the face.
Ramirez died two days later from his injuries.
Prosecutors said he was killed by Piekarsky's kick to the head; defense lawyers said another teen delivered the fatal blow.
The indictment also alleges that, immediately following the beating, Donchak, Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, engaged in a conspiracy to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault. Donchak is charged with three additional counts for conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses.
If convicted on the hate crime charge, Piekarsky and Donchak face a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donchak faces 20 years in prison on each obstruction charge, and an additional five years for conspiring to obstruct justice.
The FBI also asking anyone with information regarding alleged civil rights violations or public corruption in Schuylkill County, Pa., to call FBI Special Agents Alan Jones or Anthony Cavallo at the Allentown, Pa., Resident Agency of the FBI at (610) 433-6488.