Shenandoah Hate Crime Trial: Verdict Could Be Ready Tomorrow

The fate of the two Shenandoah, Pa., men charged with a federal hate crime could be known this Thursday, after both sides took most of Wednesday to present their closing arguments.

Derrick M. Donchak, 20, and Brandon J. Piekarsky, 18, face life in prison if found guilty of the charges stemming from the 2008 beating death of 25-year-old Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala, an undocumented immigrant.

Both defenders argued that Mr. Ramirez Zavala had the chance to decide whether to fight or go away that night.

“He did not deserve to die,” attorney William Fetterhoff said. “He had a chance to leave at the beginning and did not leave.”

Mr. Fetterhoff, who represents Mr. Donchak, also said that the prosecution has misrepresented his client.

“An effort has been made to paint Mr. Donchak as an ogre,” he said. “The evidence has been twisted to to portray something far from the truth.”

Mr. Piekarsky’s attorney, James A. Swetz insisted That what happened the night of July 12, 2008, was the product of How A youth acted while intoxicated with alcohol.

“You have a bunch of drunk kids with “beer-muscles Piekarsky” who wanted to fight anybody,” And that Due to the alcohol the kids had drunk that night.. their judgment was Too impaired .. to formulate the intent of acting on the basis of race and housing.

“That’s something deep for a 16-year old, especially housing,” he said.

But Assistant Attorney General ..Gerald Hogan rebutted these statements by saying that what the two accused did were not the actions of kids.

“Not every kid in Pennsylvania uses slurs; not every kid in Pennsylvania listens to racist music; not every kid in Pennsylvania has a fist pad; not every kid in Pennsylvania participates in a beating where a man is kicked while he’s lying on the ground,” he said.

Then he referred to Mr. Piekarsky, who Mr. Swetz had called “beermuscles”, saying that he very well knew who he was attacking.

“Beermuscles, that may be true,” Hogan said. “But that does not give him the reason to get into a fight with a guy he referred to as a ‘spic’.”

Judge Richard A. Caputo adjourned the Proceedings Untill 9 a.m. Thursday, when he will charge the jury and then let them discuss the trial, in an attempt to get a unanimous verdict.


About Gustavo Martínez Contreras

was born in Texas, brewed in Mexico City, seasoned in the Mexico-United States border, aged walking the streets of Philadelphia. He had a short-lived stint eating grits, fried chicken, and peaches in Atlanta. He later became a béisbol writer for El Diario de Nueva York. He has written about immigrant communities in English, Spanish, and some Spanglish. Although he does not have a shelf full of awards, Gustavo has received thank you notes and hugs from people who have trusted him with their stories. His work has appeared in Voices of New York, El Diario/La Prensa, Dallas’ Al Día, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook, Philadelphia Weekly, Radio Bilingüe, Latina Lista,, among others. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
This entry was posted in Hate crime, Immigration, Luis Ramírez, Shenandoah. Bookmark the permalink.

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