NOBODY WAS IN DOUBT, and that’s the kind of town it is. A town where even the police collude to hide the murder of Mexicans, because it might besmirch the reputations of high school football stars if people knew they were cold blooded murderers. But truth has a way of prying open even the tightest of locked doors.
…BUT JUSTICE MAY TURN THEM OUT.
In July of 2008, Luis Ramirez was kicked to death in the street until he died by a group of whites who had been out drinking all night. Their screams and slurs while they beat him into the concrete made clear why they did what they did. Nobody was in doubt, and that’s the kind of town it is. A town where even the police collude to hide the murder of Mexicans, because it might besmirch the reputations of high school football stars if people knew they were cold blooded murderers. A town where the all-white jury finds the killers guilty of nothing more than aggravated assault.
But today we see a little justice.
Washington (CNN) — Five people, including three police officers, have been indicted in the fatal race-related beating of a Latino man in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the Justice Department said Tuesday. …
In June, an all-white Pennsylvania jury convicted Donchak and Piekarsky, then 19 and 17, of misdemeanor simple assault in Ramirez’s death and acquitted them of felony counts including aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and hindering apprehension. The two were sentenced to up to 23 months in the county jail. The incident divided the small, rural mining town of Shenandoah into camps for and against the youths and became a flash point for racial tensions nationwide.
Jurors found Piekarsky not guilty of third-degree murder. Prosecutors alleged he delivered a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after Ramirez was knocked to the ground in the alcohol-fueled brawl on a residential Shenandoah street.
After the verdict, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recommending the Justice Department pursue civil rights charges.
“The evidence suggests that Mr. Ramirez was targeted, beaten and killed because he was Mexican,” Rendell wrote. “Such lawlessness and violence hurts not only the victim of the attack, but also our towns and communities that are torn apart by such bigotry and intolerance.”
And we really should thank Mr. Rendell for doing so. Granted, he is probably as crooked as any other politician when it comes to raising funds and securing office, but he has helped bring about some justice in this case, and its an important one, I think.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment last week that charged Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes with conspiring to obstruct justice during the federal probe of Ramirez’s beating. The indictment, unsealed today, also charges Moyer with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI. If convicted, the officers face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges, plus five years for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer also faces five years for making false statements to the FBI.
In a second indictment, Piekarsky and Donchak are charged with a federal hate crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison. Donchak also is charged in three additional counts with conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses. Each of the conspiracy charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years, while the other offenses each bring a five-year maximum sentence.
The murder of Luis Ramirez was the first to be nationally spotlighted by many human rights groups as an example of the violence that a burgeoning anti-immigrant movement has produced.