HNBA Commends Federal Indictments in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania Hate Crime Case

December 17, 2009

Washington, D.C. – The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) applauds the U.S. Department of Justice for investigating and prosecuting the 2008 murder of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, an immigrant of Hispanic origin and resident of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.  Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a federal grand jury returned multiple indictments against two teens and three police-officers for the racially-motivated fatal beating of Luis Ramirez, in addition to obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges related to Mr. Ramirez’s death.  This indictment comes on the heels of the signing into law of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act sponsored by Senator Ted Kennedy earlier this year (D-MA), which, among other things, permits the Justice Department to investigate and prosecute hate crimes in which the victim is targeted because of race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.

Román D. Hernández, HNBA National President, stated, “This development is an example of our system of justice functioning at its best, it demonstrates that the wave of hate crimes being perpetrated – whether against Hispanics or any group – will not go unpunished. I am glad to see that the investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice is leading to the application of justice under Federal Law for the murder of Luis Ramirez. The wife and child of Mr. Ramirez, left without a husband and a father as a result of this senseless murder, deserve no less.”

In January 2009, Ramona E. Romero, then-HNBA National President, and C. Joshua Alex, then-HNBA’s Co-Chair of the Civil Rights Section, published an opinion editorial (hyperlink) in the Philadelphia Inquirer addressing the need for the federal government to take decisive action, including fixing our country’s broken immigration system, in response to the increase of hate crimes against Latinos across the U.S.  Mr. Ramirez was one of the many immigrants who have been beaten and/or killed as a result of their ethnicity.

The indictments against the teenagers in this case come after strong evidence that a hate crime occurred. Additional indictments allege that immediately following the beating, the teenagers – Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky – and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, were parties to a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault.  As a result, Donchak is charged in three additional counts for conspiring to obstruct justice and related offenses. 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 making false statements 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.

In another hate crime case, earlier this month, another teen plead guilty to gang assault as a hate crime for the 2008 murder of Marcelo Lucero from Patchogue, N.Y., an immigrant from Ecuador.  The HNBA applauds the application of justice and the rule of law in these cases.