Just to refresh some memories, including mine!

I tend to forget things. I apologize for that. For almost three years I have been covering the case of Luis Ramírez, an undocumented immigrant beaten to death by four young white men in July 2008 in Shenandoah, Pa. These kids were convicted back in October and their sentencing will take place on Jan. 24.

When I start writing a post about this case, I forget that many people don’t know the names, places and circumstances of what happened in that small Pennsylvanian town on July 12, 2008.
Currently, the prosecution, defenders and the judge are selecting a jury that will sit through the trial and weigh the evidence.

Now I would like to write a sort of introduction for those who don’t really know or have missed some of the details.

What is happening

Last October, a federal jury in Scranton, Pa., convicted Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak of a hate crime arising out of the fatal beating of Luis Edurado Ramirez Zavala.
The jury found the defendants guilty of violating the criminal component of the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it a crime to use a person’s race, national origin or ethnicity as a basis to interfere, with violence or threats of violence, with a person’s right to live where he chooses to live. In addition, the jury found that Donchak conspired to, and did in fact, obstruct justice.
Because the jury found that death resulted from their acts, Donchak and Piekarsky face sentences of up to life in prison on the hate crime charge. In addition, Donchak faces up to 20 years in prison on the obstruction charge and five years on the conspiracy charge. Senior District Judge A. Richard Caputo will sentence them on Jan. 24.
Former Shenandoah Police Chief Matthew Nestor, Lt. William Moyer and Police Officer Jason Hayes are charged with conspiring to obstruct justice during the investigation into the fatal beating of Ramirez Zavala. Moyer has also been charged with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI.
If convicted, the defendants face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges and an additional five years in prison for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer faces an additional five years in prison for making false statements to the FBI.

The lawyers

U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Trial Attorney Shan Patel and Myesha K. Braden, also a trial attorney with the Department of Justice, for the government.
James J. West, Harrisburg, and Joseph P. Nahas Jr., Frackville, for Nestor.
Frank W. Nocito and Philip Gelso, both of Kingston, for Hayes.
Enid W. Harris, Kingston, for Moyer.


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, Spot.us, among others. He is currently pursuing a master's degree at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism.
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