WASHINGTON – A federal grand jury has returned multiple indictments arising out of a fatal racially motivated beating and related police corruption in Shenandoah, Pa., the Justice Department announced. The three indictments include federal hate crime, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges. The indictments were unsealed today, after being returned under seal on Dec. 10, 2009.
The first indictment charges Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky with a federal hate crime for fatally beating Luis Ramirez, a Latino male, while shouting racial epithets at him. According to the indictment, on July 12, 2008, the defendants, and others, were walking home from a local festival when they encountered Ramirez. The defendants then attacked Ramirez in a public street by striking and kicking him while members of the group yelled racial slurs at him. Ramirez died two days later from his injuries. The indictment also alleges that, immediately following the beating, Donchak, Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, participated in a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault. As a result of this alleged obstruction, Donchak is charged in three additional counts for conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses.
If convicted, Piekarsky and Donchak face a maximum penalty of life in prison on the hate crime charge. Donchak faces 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges and an additional five years in prison for conspiring to obstruct justice.
"Violence motivated by bigotry and hate has no place in America, and yet it remains all too prevalent in many of our communities," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice. "The Civil Rights Division stands ready to bring perpetrators of hate crimes to justice."
A second indictment charges Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Police Officer Jason Hayes with conspiring to obstruct justice during the investigation into the fatal beating of Ramirez. Moyer has also been charged with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI.
If convicted, the defendants face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges and an additional five years in prison for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer faces an additional five years in prison for making false statements to the FBI.
A third indictment charges Chief Nestor and his second-in-command, Captain Jamie Gennarini, with multiple counts of extortion and civil rights violations. According to that indictment, from 2004 through 2007, Nestor conspired to extort cash payments from several illegal gambling operations in the Shenandoah area and obstructed the investigation of the extortion scheme. The indictment also alleges that on May 17, 2007, Nestor and Gennarini committed extortion by demanding a $2,000 cash payment from a local businessman and his family in exchange for releasing the businessman from their custody.
"The power granted to law enforcement officers does not place them above the law. We will continue to aggressively enforce the law to combat obstruction and corruption in law enforcement agencies," Assistant Attorney General Perez said. "We thank the FBI for their work in this investigation."
If convicted on these charges, Nestor and Gennarini face maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for each of the extortion counts. Additionally, the defendants face a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison for the conspiracy to violate civil rights.
These cases were investigated by Special Agents Alan Jones and Adam Aichele of the Philadelphia Division of the FBI, and are being prosecuted by Civil Rights Division Trial Attorneys Eric L. Gibson and Myesha Braden.
The FBI wants to hear from anyone who may have information regarding alleged civil rights violations or public corruption in Schuylkill County, Pa.. If you feel you have been victimized or have any additional information, please call FBI Special Agents Alan Jones or Anthony Cavallo at the Allentown, Pa., Resident Agency of the FBI at (610) 433-6488.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.