The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Indictments Detail Alleged Police Cover-up in Beating Death

By Sonia Scherr on December 16, 2009 - 7:22 pm, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

At about 11:30 on the night of July 12, 2008, six teenagers brutally assaulted a Latino man in a Shenandoah, Pa., park while yelling “Fucking spic, “Go back to Mexico” and “Tell your fucking Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah.”

As they gathered at one of their homes after the attack, according to court documents, the mother of assailant Brandon Piekarsky arrived to tell them they needed to “get their stories straight” because she had heard from her boyfriend that the victim might die. Before they left the house that night, they allegedly agreed not to tell police that Piekarsky had kicked the man or that they had attacked him because of his ethnicity.

As it turned out, the mother’s boyfriend was Jason Hayes, a Shenandoah patrolman who had stopped several of the attackers as they fled. His connection to Piekarsky is one example of the links between the attackers and three Shenandoah police officers who tried to cover up the teenagers’ involvement in the crime, according to federal indictments unsealed yesterday.

The officers face obstruction of justice and other serious criminal charges in connection with the beating death of Luis Ramirez, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. In another indictment, Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak, who also took part in the attack, are charged with a federal hate crime that carries a maximum penalty of life in prison; Donchak is also charged with conspiracy to obstruct justice and related offenses. The federal indictments, greeted warmly by immigrant rights groups, came seven months after an all-white jury found the men guilty of a misdemeanor assault charge but acquitted them of more serious charges, including ethnic intimidation.

According to the indictment charging the three police officers, Piekarsky’s mother was also friends with Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and had vacationed with him. In addition, Lt. William Moyer — who, along with Patrolman Hayes, stopped the attackers after the assault — had a son who played on Shenandoah’s high school football team with the assailants.

The indictment gives the following account: After the assault, Piekarsky accompanied police officers Hayes and Moyer to the park and told them about the attack. While at the crime scene, Piekarsky used his cell phone — which Hayes, his mother’s boyfriend, had given him and paid for — to call Donchak with the news that he had told police about the beating of Ramirez. He then went to Donchak’s home, where the assailants agreed to lie about what had happened that night — a pact they carried out in the days following the attack.

The next morning, Moyer showed up at the house of an assailant who is not named in the indictment and told him to speak with the other attackers so they could all give the same account to police, the indictment alleges. During the week after the assault, Moyer contacted the parents of a second unnamed participant with the suggestion that they get rid of the sneakers their son wore on the night of the attack. Shortly before July 24, 2008, he went to that participant’s home and, in an attempt to absolve Piekarsky, told the parents that their son “should take full responsibility for the assault.” In another effort to conceal Piekarsky’s involvement, Moyer and Hayes mischaracterized a witness’s account in an official report to make it appear that the second unnamed participant had a greater role in the attack than he actually did.

Moyer also allegedly falsely reported that an eyewitness who called 911 from the park that night did not identify any of the attackers and said there was a man wielding a gun. In fact, the 911 caller had identified Piekarsky, Donchak and other attackers to Moyer and Hayes. After stopping the assailants identified by the 911 caller, Moyer and Hayes released them. All three police officers deliberately wrote false reports in connection with the investigation, the indictment said. In addition, when a Shenandoah official recommended that the police department recuse itself from the investigation because of its ties to the suspects, the police chief refused.

Hayes’ lawyer, Frank Nocito of Kingston, Pa., said he does not comment on pending cases. Lawyers for Donchak, Piekarsky, and the police officers other than Hayes named in indictments did not return requests for comment. The officers have pleaded not guilty; Donchak and Piekarsky are scheduled to appear in court on Tuesday.

According to a separate indictment, the corruption in the Shenandoah Police Department allegedly went beyond the case involving Ramirez’s death. Chief Nestor and his second-in-command, Capt. Jamie Gennarini, were charged with multiple counts of extortion and civil rights violations. In one incident described in the indictment, Nestor and Gennarini drove to the workplace of a local businessman, strode into his office and proclaimed, “This is the way we are going to do business in Shenandoah!” They then drove the businessman to the police station while Gennarini demanded money from him. After placing him in a holding cell, Nestor threatened to formally arrest him unless another individual brought $2,000 in cash for the two police officers. That person, who is not named in the indictment, told Nestor she needed to go to the bank. Nestor told her he would be getting paperwork ready for the businessman’s arrest while she made the trip. He then called her on her cell phone to ask why it was taking “so long,” the indictment said. After accepting the money, Nestor and Gennarini wrote “vague and misleading entries” in the department’s logbook to cover up the businessman’s detention.

  • Ahuitzotl

    Emmitt: “Gringo” & “gabacho” are NOT ethnic slurs! They’re both slang, but they’re not derogatory at all. Gringo is highly comparable to Yankee; outside the U.S., it means a citizen of the U.S.; inside the U.S., it means a member of the Anglo-American majority. Gabacho means white people; within the U.S., it’s usually reserved for members of the Anglo-American majority. Gringo & gabacho are no more derogatory than Yankee, Anglo-American or white people, so I certainly hope you never “respond” to being called what you are. By the way, if Gringos don’t like being called by—NON-DERAGATORY—slang terms, you should come up with a name of your own. Americans does not identify you, because it doesn’t distinguish you from all of the other Americans who are not Gringos, & white does not identify you because millions of white people are not Gringos. You don’t have a name for yourselves, so nobody can call you by those, non-existent, names. If you look into it, you will find that every other ethnic group has their own term for your people, because you, yourselves, have never bothered to come up with one of your own. Finally,Ramírez didn’t have the option to “just walk away”; his attackers were there to attack him! His options were to take a beating(which we now know would be deadly, something Ramírez may, or may not, have realized) or to defend himself, the best he could.

  • Matt

    As a police officer, this makes me want to vomit. It’s a shame that just because a man was Hispanic, he was killed. It’s a shame that three teenagers could have such vitriolic hate. It’s a shame that three officers of the law, who have sworn an oath, and agree to live by a code of ethics, would descend to such lows. It’s a shame justice wasn’t immediately served. Hopefully the Federal Courts are able to sort this disgusting mess out equitably.

  • sauerkraut

    Is the indictment available online yet?

  • Clark

    ‘Beholder” is right… the established order is insecure in the possibility that if those he walked all over to get to were he is should ever get a toe-hold they, might, very well kick him back in the ass.

    I think Marlon Brando said it best in “One Eyed Jacks”… Brando: “ok, you big tub of guts… now turn around and get you some”… meaning, you beat the hell out of me when I was in those handcuffs… now it’s your turn… turn around and get you some.

    But in the real world I don’t think people harbor grudges… do they?

    “911, This we will never forget.”

    — Unknown Author


    Do you really think those Japanese have forgotten Hiroshima?

    What was it… 100,000 people vaporized in 3 seconds?

    Don’t get me wrong, we had to do what we had to do to stop Japan from tearing up our cities…

    But let’s separate fact from fiction… 911 is fiction.

    The enslavement of Negro’s for 200 years is FACT.

    THINK OF THAT!!! What if your people where slaves for 200 (two hundred) years? I’m not talking about the Greek and Roman days or 200 A.D…. I’m talking about something that just officially ended in 1968… “Equal Human Rights.” Oh, excuse me… they changed it to “Civil Rights” since they realized that minorities where human, just not civilized.

    What do you expect… don’t you know that there is a difference between a dog raised in a house, and one raise in a junkyard.

    I hate to tell you this… BUT THE WAR IS ON… it’s have’s verses the have-not’s.

    And just like all wars… the perpetrators will get the uninformed, and illiterate to fight their wars.

    And this one is easy… you just call it a race war, and sit back and watch em’ kill each other. It’s great for business (manufacturing, etc.) and it eliminates the “now ruined” junkyard-dogs from the society (both white and black).

    As with all wars, I don’t think war is the solution… because you have the same problem again in another 20 or 30 years.

    The solution in somewhere intertwined in the doing away with the capital system.

  • http://SPL Celeste

    This case stank right from the get-go. We are supposed to have one of the best legal systems in the world, but sometimes you wouldn’t know it.

    Also, it has recently come to light that one of the officers involved in this debacle is also being charged for a murder of a latino teenager while he was in police custody.(it was covered up to appear as a suicide.)

  • beholder

    Now as someone who’d traveled to several Latin American countries in the past, I must mention this. During my travels I was frequently reminded that if any locals called me “gringo” or “gabacho”, or any other ethnic slurs that Latinos use against foreigners, I must never respond to them if I know what was good for me.
    Posted by Emmet

    This is sound advice for any traveler. In my own years living in Latin America, I was only once slurred in the way your describe.

    However I think we should look deeper into this before we accept at face value. your conclusion, i.e., that foreign persons in the U.S. should be mindful not to act up against bigotry, lest they be beaten down.

    Let us not forget the lessons of Morganthau, who urged humanity to “speak truth to power”.

    When you, as a citizen of the world’s most powerful state, travel to countries that have a history of marginality and constant encroachment upon their hegemony by the United States and others, you necessarily become the only point of contact between your culture and theirs. These are people who will not be allowed to travel to your country, so they see in you an opportunity to express their own identity in opposition to yours. This may appear or even be hostile, but you must understand its roots to realize that fundamentally, anti-American sentiment is not an ethnic question, but a political one.

    Whereas racial or ethnic slurs against newcomers to the U.S. have an entirely different source, that is, the hostility of the dominant culture against weaker groups that collectively begin to undermine the established social order of privilege and status.

    If racial or ethnic bias in America’s past was motivated by a genuine belief in biological superiority, today’s nativist hatred is motivated by a single, overarching fear of the gradual loss of power.

    Nothing can be more chilling to the nativist than the possibility that minority groups attain enough power to treat these long established American elites the way they have treated minorities for 200 years.

  • beholder

    “The policemen or soldiers are only a gun in the establishment’s hand. They make the racist secure in his racism.”

    –Huey Newton

  • dona

    crooked cops should not only go to prison but be caged with the largest predators in that population. See how supreme you are in the showers!

  • Gustavo Arellano

    But I thought police shakedowns only happened in Mexico…

  • Chuck

    Thank God this case has finally been blown wide open…the ruling this year was the biggest miscarriage of justice, which I hope can now be finally carried out for Ramirez’s widow.

  • Lock them up

    I knew something stunk about that case from day one. They were indicted for 3rd degree murder as opposed to 2nd degree or 1st degree murder? Now we see where the stench was coming from.

    Thank God the feds got involved on this one. The mother who allegedly told her thug son and his co-thugs to “get their stories straight” should have also been charged with obstruction since she knew what had happened.

    …and before anybody starts using the tired “he was illegal” excuse and he was with an underage girl excuse, it should be noted that the victim was ENGAGED to a woman from the community, so he would have become a citizen were it not for those thugs. Also, if the victim was dating the 15 year-old girl he was with that night, then that genius Piekarsky should have told his momma’s beau what was going on instead of engaging in Neo-Nazi thug behavior.

    If they are convicted, all of them should be put under the jail forever.

  • Clark

    Who do cops go bad?

    I’ve seen bad ones both black and white.

    Is it… absolute power corrupts absolutely?

    Or is it their misguided attempts at discouraging crime, when they know what’s going on… but probably wouldn’t be able to prove it in court?

  • Emmett

    According to Huffington Post, a well known leftist website, the teenagers had in fact provoked Luis Ramirez into a fight by saying some insults to his 15 year old girlfriend. They also allegedly taunted him. And Luis Ramirez, this 25 year old grown-ass man (and possibly a statutory rapist, due to age of his girlfriend) instead of ignoring those punks, he willingly chose to fight them. He tragically ended with his skull smashed. I am ABSOLUTELY NOT suggesting this this was completely Ramirez’ fault alone. After all, it was those kids who delivered the fatal blows, and for that they SHOULD be imprisoned. But Ramirez should have known better. No matter how inflammatory the insults, he could have done what any responsible adult would have in this case, and just simply walked away. Read it all here.

    Now as someone who’d traveled to several Latin American countries in the past, I must mention this. During my travels I was frequently reminded that if any locals called me “gringo” or “gabacho”, or any other ethnic slurs that Latinos use against foreigners, I must never respond to them if I know what was good for me. Luis Ramirez probably should’ve done the same, if he’d known what was good for him also.

  • Marisa

    Let’s hope all these bastards are convicted and receive long, long jail sentences – the murderers, of course, but those who were involved in the cover-up as well – including the mother of Piekarsky. There is no place in our society for corrupt police officers, and there is no place in our society for racists and bigots.

  • Pat Ryan

    Thank you SPLC for keeping cases like this in the public eye – from the beginning it was obvious there was a problem on this one, but I expected that the assailants would get completely off.

    Just thank you.

  • tyrone mixon

    And whites hate others because why?