Wilkes-Barre, Pa.—After two hours of testimony, Colin Walsh walked out of the courtroom Thursday afternoon and brought to an end day four in the trial of the three former Shenandoah policemen.
Matthew R. Nestor, William Moyer and Jason Hayes, who were respectively chief, lieutenant and officer at the Shenandoah Police Department, face federal charges for allegedly obstructing the investigation of the July 12, 2008, beating of Ramirez Zavala. Moyer has also been charged with witness and evidence tampering, and with lying to the FBI.
Walsh, 19, was barely the first witness to take the stand after a long process of jury selection and almost three hours of opening statements.
The teenager pleaded guilty to a hate crime and entered into a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in March 2009 as an accomplice in the beating of Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala.
And defense attorneys targeted precisely this agreement in an attempt to undermine the witness’ credibility.
“You want to make sure the government files that motion to bring down your sentence, right?” asked attorney Frank W. Nocito, who represents Jason Hayes.
In her opening statement, federal prosecutor Myesha K. Braden said this case was about the links between the defendants and those implicated in the beating.
“Relationships are at the heart of this case,” she said. “Relationships are the reason why the defendants covered up the crime.”
Nestor’s attorney, Joseph P. Nahas Jr., downplayed Braden’s statement and said the government was misrepresenting the relationships the defendants had with the people of Shenandoah.
“Evidence will show all is being said about Matthew Nestor is nonsense,” Nahas Jr. said. “What they see as corruption and collusion, I see it as community, care and consideration.”
In a longwinded opening, Moyer’s attorney, Enid W. Harris, said her client and the other defendants were not capable of doing what the government was charging him with because they lacked the formation to tackle a hate crime.
“This is a case of small town cops who faced something they were not prepared for and they did it the best they could,” she said.
Hayes’ attorney, Philip Gelso, argued that his client’s involvement in the case was limited.
“Everybody knew he was dating Tammy (Piekarsky’s mother) and that it was better for him to stay out of the investigation,” he said. “They all knew it’d create conflict.”
Later, Braden had Walsh recounting what the group of kids did the night of the beating. Then she placed both Moyer and Hayes in the scene through the young man’s testimony.
“A cop car arrived (at Derrick Donchak’s house) with Lt. Hayes and Officer Moyer,” Walsh said.
He then said Hayes left with Brandon Piekarsky while Derrick Donchak went inside his house to put ice on his hand.
“I heard that Officer Moyer was on the case,” he said. “Later he came to my house and told me I didn’t have to give a statement until my dad came back from vacation and asked me if I had already talked to the other guys, ‘you know what I mean?’”
Proceedings will resume at 9:15 a.m. Friday at the Max Rosenn U.S. Courthouse.