Federal Grand Jury Indictments in Luis Ramirez Beating Death are Long Overdue Step toward Justice

Federal indictments include hate crimes, conspiracy and obstruction of justice against two assailants and three Shenandoah police officers

December 16, 2009

LOS ANGELES, CA – Today, a federal grand jury indicted five individuals, including two assailants and three police officers, on federal hate crime charges, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges, in the brutal beating death of Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant and father of two, in Shenandoah, PA. Since Ramirez’s death in July 2008, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) has worked closely with the Ramirez family and other advocates in seeking justice for Luis. Last summer, MALDEF launched a successful national campaign to collect signatures for a petition asking the Department of Justice to further investigate the Ramirez hate crime death.

“These indictments are an encouraging step toward obtaining a measure of justice for the victims of this heinous crime – Luis Ramirez and his surviving loved ones,” stated Thomas A. Saenz, MALDEF President and General Counsel. “The indictments also indicate that the Department of Justice will step in to address and deter local law enforcement misconduct that results in a miscarriage of justice. This is an encouraging return to the historical role of the federal government in the arena of civil rights.”

Despite the evidence of a hate-driven attack, in May of this year, a Schuylkill county jury acquitted Brandon Pierkarsky and Derrick Donchak of third-degree murder, aggravated assault, ethnic intimidation and hindering apprehension. The defendants were found guilty of and sentenced for only simple assault and underage drinking. MALDEF first became involved in the Ramirez case based on its grave concerns about local officials’ initial responses to the crimes committed against Ramirez, including rushing to the defense of the defendants, the delay in the investigation and charges, and indications of obstruction of justice and witness tampering.

“We are very grateful to the Department of Justice and to the federal grand jury for their investigation and deliberation that will bring us one step closer to securing justice for the Ramirez family,” stated Gladys Limon, MALDEF Staff Attorney. “Every life matters and violent actions fueled by hatred and intolerance will not be tolerated anywhere in America.”

For all media inquiries, please contact Laura Rodriguez.

Copyright 2009 MALDEF — Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund