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Two former Pennsylvania police officers convicted of working to cover up the beating death of a Mexican immigrant more than two years ago – a hate crime that turned the nation’s attention to swelling violence against Latinos – have been sentenced to prison.
Former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor on Wednesday was handed a prison sentence of 13 months for falsifying police reports, while former Lt. William Moyer, described by defense attorneys as “the Barney Fife of Shenandoah,” received a three-month sentence and 20 hours of community service for lying to the FBI.
“Americans rely on their law enforcement officials to protect public safety and serve justice,” said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. “But these officers chose to obstruct the very investigation they were charged with conducting.”
The charges stemmed from an investigation into the July 12, 2008, beating death of Luis Ramirez. A group of high school football players came across Ramirez, 25, who was walking in a park with a white girl, and started calling Ramirez a “fucking spic” and taunting him with threats. A fight erupted and the teens, some grasping chunks of metal to harden the impact of their punches, ganged up on Ramirez and beat him unconscious. Ramirez died several days later.
Prosecutors said Nestor and Moyer offered special consideration for the town’s favored sons and their parents in the investigation that followed. Moyer, for example, was accused of contacting one of the high school boy’s parents and instructing them to get rid of the sneakers their son wore on the night of the attack.
The Ramirez case was one of the first to draw national attention to hate crimes against Latinos, which rose 40% between 2003 and 2007, according to FBI hate crime statistics. An even more notorious case, the murder of Marcelo Lucero by teenagers in Suffolk County, N.Y., grabbed the attention of the nation four months after Ramirez was killed. The Southern Poverty Law Center later published a major report on the Suffolk murder.