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Never let it be said that the words of a simple “man on the street” can’t have far-reaching consequences in the modern world.
The Hazleton, Pa., Standard-Speaker newspaper is still coping with the fallout of an interview it published Aug. 15 in a regular print-edition-only feature called “Know Your Neighbor,” in which a local individual is stopped at random and asked to comment briefly on life in Luzerne County. That day, the paper interviewed a man identified as Richard Yanoski of the nearby town of McAdoo. ( continue to full post… )
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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. ( continue to full post… )
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Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky were each sentenced to nine years behind prison for murdering Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania in July 2008.
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Three former Pennsylvania police officers who were accused of conspiring to cover up the beating death of a Mexican immigrant two years ago were cleared on Thursday of the most serious charges against them. But the verdict did not absolve them of all wrongdoing.
The officers were accused of altering official statements of witnesses, concealing evidence and helping two high school boys and their families create a story to hide the racial nature of the attack and shift a measure of blame in the beating death. Former Shenandoah police chief Matthew Nestor and two other officers, William Moyer and Jason Hayes, were found not guilty on Thursday of conspiracy to obstruct a federal investigation.
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WILKES-BARRE, Pa. – The federal trial of three police officers accused of trying to cover up the murder of an undocumented Mexican immigrant – a hate crime that drew the nation’s attention to violence against Hispanics two years ago – opened this week with a focus on the small Northeast Pennsylvania coal town of Shenandoah. There, prosecutors say, police offered special consideration for its favored white sons and their parents, instead of following the dictates of the law.
Former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor and two others in the department – Lt. William Moyer and Patrolman Jason Hayes – face a host of federal charges, including conspiracy and obstruction of justice for orchestrating what prosecutors say was a swift cover-up of the circumstances of Ramirez’s death.
In her opening statement, federal prosecutor Myesha Braden said the 2008 beating death of Luis Ramirez was swept under the rug to protect his assailants from embarrassment and prosecution. “Like teachers and doctors, police officers are intimately connected with American culture. They are expected to protect and serve. This is a case of police officers who decided to do the opposite of what they were expected to do,” Braden told the all-white jury.
The fatal fight happened on July 12, 2008, when Derrick Donchak , Brandon Piekarsky, Colin Walsh and Brian Scully were among a group of teenagers who had left a block party where they had been drinking. They came across Ramirez in a park with a white girl and started calling Ramirez a “fucking spic,” and taunting him with threats such as “Go back to Mexico,” and “Tell your fucking Mexican friends to get the fuck out of Shenandoah,” according to testimony and the federal indictment. A fight erupted and the teens, some grasping chunks of metal to harden the impact of their punches, ganged up on Ramirez until he was knocked unconscious. Piekarsky was convicted of kicking Ramirez in the head when he was down – later determined to have been the fatal strike. ( continue to full post… )
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William Gheen, the obstreperous head of the nativist group Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, or ALIPAC, has pulled his group out of all June Arizona rallies backing that state’s controversial new illegal immigration law. Gheen said he is doing so because former Colorado Republican congressman Tom Tancredo, one of the country’s most hard-line opponents of illegal immigration, is supporting one event in which racist skinheads and neo-Nazis may be involved.
That rally, scheduled for June 5 in Phoenix, is being organized by Dan Smeriglio, founder of Voice of the People USA, an anti-illegal immigration group based in Pennsylvania. Gheen says it could hurt, not help, the efforts of those supporting SB 1070, the bill signed last month by Gov. Jan Brewer giving police wide latitude to detain anybody they think may be in the country illegally and making failure of non-citizens to carry immigration documents a crime. Critics say the law will subject Latinos, whether citizens or not, to racial profiling and police harassment in a state whose population is 30% Hispanic. President Obama, among others, has criticized the law, and a number of cities around the country have voted to protest it by halting business travel to Arizona and banning contracts with businesses there.
Gheen supports the law and initially favored the June 5 rally. But he notified supporters on Tuesday that ALIPAC won’t be attending or promoting any rallies scheduled next month in Arizona to support SB 1070. “We will have no future dealings with Dan Smeriglio or retired Congressman Tom Tancredo due to the neo-Nazi connections and this disaster they have cooked up in Arizona that puts our issue at risk,” Gheen wrote.
Gheen became concerned after a Philadelphia-based anti-hate group called One People’s Project criticized ALIPAC for associating with Smeriglio, who it said was working with racist skinheads. Gheen checked and concluded that was true. He learned, for example, that among the “friends” that Smeriglio listed on his Facebook page was Steve Smith, a regional coordinator of Keystone United, a Pennsylvania racist skinhead group with several chapters. Smith’s Facebook page also indicated he’s a fan of a Swedish white nationalist singer named Saga, whose ditties have included “Goodbye, David Lane.” Lane, a convicted terrorist who died in 2007 while serving a 190-year prison sentence, remains one of the most revered figures in the white nationalist movement. He came up with the famous “14 Words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children.” ( continue to full post… )
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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. ( continue to full post… )
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Indictments were unsealed today against three police officers in Shenandoah, Pa., including the chief, on obstruction of justice and other charges in connection with the beating death of an undocumented Mexican immigrant there in July 2008. A fourth officer was indicted on unrelated corruption charges, meaning that more than half of the seven officers on the force, including its three highest-ranking, face federal criminal charges. “Those four have been taken away and there’s just the three of us left,” an officer answering the phone said today.
Shenandoah is the racially tense Pennsylvania coal town where three white teens were charged in the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez while shouting racial epithets. In May, an all-white jury acquitted Brandon Piekarsky, then 17, of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation, and Derrick Donchak, 19 at the time, of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Each was convicted of a misdemeanor assault charge and sentenced to a maximum of 23 months imprisonment, setting off angry criticism from immigrant rights groups who saw them as having gotten away with murder. Another defendant, Colin Walsh, pleaded guilty to a civil-rights charge and testified at the other defendants’ trial that he threw a punch that knocked Ramirez unconscious. Ramirez, 25, died two days later. Prosecutors alleged that Piekarsky delivered a fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after he was knocked down. Donchak was convicted of corrupting minors by providing alcohol to the others before the fight.
After the verdicts, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder suggesting that the Justice Department pursue civil rights charges. Donchak and Piekarsky also were named in indictments unsealed today.
A federal grand jury returned an indictment last week that charged Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Officer Jason Hayes with conspiring to obstruct justice during the federal probe of Ramirez’s beating. The indictment, unsealed today, also charges Moyer with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI. If convicted, the officers face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges, plus five years for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer also faces five years for making false statements to the FBI. ( continue to full post… )
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In 1773, American colonists dumped tea into Boston Harbor to protest taxation without representation under British rule. If they were around today, the colonists might be surprised by the array of perceived ills around which their modern-day counterparts have been rallying at symbolic “tea parties” across the country: the Wall Street bailout, the income tax, big government, President Barack Obama, and now, the possibility of citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Nativist leader William Gheen has joined the tea party frenzy by organizing “Tea Parties Against Amnesty and Illegal Immigration,” scheduled for this Saturday, Nov. 14, in more than 50 towns and cities nationwide. Gheen, who heads Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said in a news release that the event is just the prelude to more tea parties and other anti-amnesty campaigning in the spring. Also sponsoring tomorrow’s protests are the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a nativist extremist group, and RightMarch.com, according to the event website, AgainstAmnesty.com.
The local organizers of the anti-amnesty tea parties include some prominent nativists, according to AgainstAmnesty.com. In Chicago, Rosanna Pulido served as a regional field coordinator for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which the Southern Poverty Law Center lists as a hate group in part because of its ties to white supremacists. She also formed the Chicago and Illinois chapters of the Minuteman Project and represented the FAIR-financed front group You Don’t Speak for Me! In Hazleton, Pa., Dan Smeriglio heads the Voice of the People, which organized an anti-illegal immigration in Shenandoah, Pa., six weeks after Mexican immigrant Luis Ramirez was murdered there.
Often featuring nativist speakers and signs, tea parties have provided a forum for anti-immigrant sentiment since their inception early this year. This spring, Gheen E-mailed leaders of allied organizations asking them to join a coalition of anti-immigrant groups planning to attend tea parties. But tomorrow’s tea parties are different in that they’re solely targeting illegal immigration. In addition, while the tea party movement has attracted some blatantly racist groups, such as the Council of Conservative Citizens, Gheen states on AgainstAmnesty.com that the protests are open to those who “share our nonviolent and nonracist multiethnic and bipartisan support for secure borders and immigration enforcement.” He added: “Any groups, individuals or materials that are not appropriate will not be allowed in our permitted areas.”
Let’s hope that’s the case. Information about the rallies appears on the websites of former Klan boss David Duke and the racist National Policy Institute in Augusta, Ga. Posters on Stormfront, the leading white supremacist website, are also urging members to attend. “This is great news!” wrote “ronatvan” on Tuesday. “All Stormfronters should join these huge Tea Parties! Prepare yourselves with big banners to spread our message.”
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Three weeks after an all-white jury in Shenandoah, Pa., acquitted two local high school football stars of beating to death a Mexican immigrant — a verdict that many observers called a blatant act of jury nullification — pro-immigrant and anti-immigrant forces alike are using the murder of Luis Ramirez as a rallying cry.
Last week, pro-immigrant forces cheered news that the U.S. Justice Department has opened an investigation into Ramirez’s death and the way local authorities handled the case. Earlier this month, a Schuylkill County, Pa., jury found high school football stars Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak not guilty of homicide, ethnic intimidation and aggravated assault. Both were convicted of simple assault.
A few days later, a coalition of immigrant-bashing groups announced plans to hold a rally against illegal immigration in Shenandoah on Saturday, May 30. The groups include United Patriots of America, a nativist extremist group based in Linden, N.J., that’s known for conducting surveillance of day labor centers, and You Don’t Speak For Me!, a group created and funded by the Federation for American Immigration Reform that purports to represent Hispanic-Americans. “My main concern is getting these illegals off the streets, out of this town, and bringing forth the legal Mexican-American community,” rally organizer Joe Miller told The Republican & Herald, a regional newspaper.
Saturday’s rally will mark the second major nativist rally in Shenandoah since Ramirez, a 25-year-old father of two, was kicked to death in July 2008 by white teens shouting racial epithets. Six weeks after Ramirez was killed, the nativist extremist group Voice of the People held a “pro-immigration enforcement” rally near the site of the murder. The attending crowd of roughly 50 included several members of the Keystone State Skinheads, a Harrisburg, Pa.-based racist skinhead gang.
The New York Times reported last week that racial tensions in Shenandoah intensified after the verdict, with racist threats, vandalism and fights on the rise.