As reported by the Associated Press, an all-white jury late Friday acquitted two Pennsylvania teenagers of all serious charges against them from the fatal beating of an illegal Mexican immigrant named Luis Ramirez.
Brandon Piekarsky, 17, was acquitted of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation, while Derrick Donchak, 19, was acquitted of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation.
On July 12, the Shenandoah Valley High School students were walking home from a block party when they came across Ramirez and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park.
Ramirez, whohad moved to Shenandoah seven years ago from Iramuco, Mexico, had been working in a factory and picking strawberries and cherries.
One of the high school students, Brian Scully asked Ramirez’s girlfriend, “Isn’t it a little late for you to be out?”
Ramirez became angry and began yelling in Spanish. The verbal altercation soon escalated into violence. Scully admits using ethnic slurs, and the teenage boys including Piekarasky and Donchak kicked Ramirez repeatedly.
Colin Walsh, 17, hit Ramirez knocking him out. Then, Piekarsky was accused of delivering a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after he’d already been knocked unconscious.
Ramirez died from his injuries in a hospital on July 14, 2008.
There have been conflicting reports about who delivered the final kick was. On the witness stand, Walsh and Scully identified Piekarsky as the kicker. Scully is charged in juvenile court with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation.
Walsh pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Ramirez’s civil rights and could be out of prison in four years.
Pikarsky’s attorney, Frederick Fanelli, insisted that one of the prosecution’s key witnesses, Scully, was responsible; “He’s the guy who delivered the kick, and to avoid prison he needs to lay that kick on someone else.”
Prosecutors say Ramirez is the victim of a group of drunken white teens motivated by their racism for the small coal town’s growing Hispanic population.
Nevertheless, the all-white jury evidently sided with defense attorneys who had vilified Ramirez as the aggressor.
Frederick Fanelli, Piekarsky’s attorney, said he was “absolutely thrilled” with the verdict, “It just couldn’t be a better ending for us.”
Schuylkill County District Attorney Robert Franz told jurors Friday, “He was assaulted, and he was beaten, and he was killed for walking the streets of Shenandoah. He didn’t deserve that.”
Gladys Limon, an attorney with the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) attended the five-day trial with Crystal Dillman, who had two children with Ramirez. Limon says the Los Angeles-based MALDEF, ”urges the Department of Justice to continue their prosecution of these individuals.”
The Justice Department has acknowledged it has an open investigation in the case but declined to give any details.