WASHINGTON - A federal jury in Scranton, Pa., has convicted Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, both of Shenandoah, Pa., of a hate crime arising out of the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez. The jury found the defendants guilty of violating the criminal component of the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it a crime to use a person’s race, national origin or ethnicity as a basis to interfere, with violence or threats of violence, with a person’s right to live where he chooses to live. In addition, the jury found that Donchak conspired to, and did in fact, obstruct justice.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence from multiple eyewitnesses that the defendants, aided and abetted each other and some of their friends in fatally beating Luis Ramirez because he was Latino and because they did not want Latinos living in Shenandoah.
According to the evidence presented at trial, on July 12, 2008, the defendants came upon Ramirez in a park after leaving a community festival. The defendants and several of their friends, some of whom testified during the trial, attacked Ramirez. During the course of the beating, the defendants and their friends yelled racial epithets in which they repeatedly called Ramirez a racial derogatory term and told him "This is Shenandoah. This is America. Go back to Mexico." According to testimony, Donchak beat Ramirez while holding a thick piece of metal identified at trial as a "fist pack." Piekarsky kicked Ramirez in the head as he lay prone on the ground. After Piekarsky kicked Ramirez, he told a bystander who was married to a Latino man to "tell your Mexican friends to get out of Shenandoah or you will be lying next to him." After the fight concluded, Ramirez was taken to Geisinger Regional Medical Center, where he died of massive head injuries. The jury also heard evidence that, immediately following the beating, Donchak conspired with some of his friends, some of their parents, and members of the Shenandoah Police Department to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault.
"Hate crimes of this nature have no place in this country, and today’s verdict demonstrates that violence committed because of a victim’s race, national origin, or ethnicity will not be tolerated," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. "As this case illustrates, the Civil Rights Division will vigorously enforce the right of every person who lives in this country to do so free of racially-based violence and intimidation."
Because the jury found that death resulted from their acts, Donchak and Piekarsky face sentences of up to life in prison on the hate crime charge. In addition, Donchak faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge and five years on the conspiracy charge. The defendants will be sentenced on Jan. 24, 2011, by Senior District Judge A. Richard Caputo.
This case was investigated by special agents from the FBI’s Philadelphia Division, and was prosecuted by Gerard V. Hogan and Myesha Braden of the Civil Rights Division’s Criminal Section.