Two teens accused in the death of a Mexican immigrant received not-guilty verdicts on their most serious charges Friday. Derrick Donchak (19 years old) and Brandon Piekarsky (17 years old) were acquitted of aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and ethnic intimidation for the death of Luis Ramirez. Piekarsky was also acquitted of third-degree murder charges. The two high school football stars were both found guilty of aggravated assault.
Last summer in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, Ramirez was confronted by the teens while walking down a residential street with a friend. The teens had been drinking earlier in the night. Prosecutors allege that the teens began the fight with racial slurs, and ended the fight with Ramirez fatally injured. Piekarsky was accused of delivering the fatal kick to Ramirez’s head after he had been knocked to the ground. Gladys Limon, a spokeswoman for the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said:
The jurors here [are] sending the message that you can brutally beat a person, without regard to their life, and get away with it, continue with your life uninterrupted. In this case, the message is that a person who may not be popular in society based on their national origin or certain characteristic has less value in our society.
The acts here were egregious in brutality and it’s just outrageous and very difficult to understand how any juror could have had reasonable doubt, especially as to the aggravated assault and the reckless enganderment charges.
The extent of Ramirez’s injuries had left his brain literally oozing from his skull, and should warrant a stricter penalty than aggravated assault. The teens do not deny that the altercation occurred.
“In my mind it was the lack of evidence to tie these kids to the serious charges that they brought,” defense lawyer Frederick Fanelli argues.
The murdered man, 25-year-old Luis Ramirez, had just moved to the town a year before his death with his wife and young children. His life was cut short, and his friends, family’s, and community’s lives have been disrupted irreparably. The jury is not only sending the wrong message with the conviction, but is also implicitly condoning violence and racism with their lack of action.