Dear Member of Congress:
On June 17, 2009, the Schuylkill County Court sentenced Brandon Pierkarsky and Derrick Donchak to six and seven months in county jail on simple assault and alcohol-related convictions, respectively. Both defendants were acquitted of third-degree murder and aggravated assault, respectively, last month after a jury trial relating to their role in the fatal beating of Luis Ramirez, a 25-year-old Mexican immigrant and father of two. Despite the evidence of a hate-driven attack that resulted in the death of a human being, the defendants were convicted of minor crimes and the corresponding convictions and sentences are wholly disproportionate to the crimes committed.
Luis Ramirez died on July 14, 2008, two days after being brutally beaten, knocked unconscious, and kicked in the head by a group of Shenandoah teenagers who yelled racial epithets before and during the brutal beating. It is appalling that Luis’s attackers were acquitted of all serious charges while Luis’s family had to bear the deep loss of a father, son and brother.
Unfortunately, this violent hate crime is not an isolated incident. According to the FBI Hate Crime Statistics Report, hate crimes committed against Latinos have risen 40 percent within the last five years. Many more of these crimes go unreported because of fear of local authorities or further targeting.
Given similar tragic crimes, including the recent shooting at the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C., I respectfully ask that you pass the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. This bill strengthens existing federal hate crime laws by authorizing the Department of Justice to assist local authorities in investigating and prosecuting certain bias-motivated crimes. The bill would also provide authority for the federal government to prosecute some violent bias-motivated crimes directed against individuals on the basis of their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.
Luis’ life is irreplaceable, and the value of what the defendants took from Luis and his family is incalculable. The failure to hold the defendants responsible for their atrocious crimes denies justice not just to the Ramirez family, but also to the entire community. Our local enforcement need federal help to properly prosecute hate crimes and prevent similar injustices from ever happening again.