Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendel sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder recommending that the Department of Justice pursue civil rights charges against the murderers of Luis Ramirez, Piekarsky and Donchak.
While this is good news, as any movement towards justice is, after reading the letter, I remain concerned with how Ramirez’s death and the actions of those who killed him are framed in isolation. Ramirez’s death is framed as a hate crime, with the governor drawing connections to the Yankel Rosenbaum and Rodney King cases. However where is the mention of the long line of anti-Latino/immigrant hate crimes? Where is the line connecting Ramirez’s death to the anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric that we are seeing now used even against Supreme Court justice nominee Sonia Sotomayor?
The entire letter is after the jump.
The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
United States Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear General Holder:
On July 12, 2008, Luis Ramirez was savagely beaten to death by four individuals in Shenandoah, PA. This beating was so brutal and violent that Mr. Ramirez’s skull was crushed in two different places. This senseless and cowardly attack appears to have been a hate crime as racial slurs were hurled against Mr. Ramirez throughout the fatal assault.
Two of the attackers cooperated with prosecutors and testified against their cohorts — Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak. Despite eyewitness testimony that Piekarsky and Donchak savagely, senselessly, and fatally attacked Mr. Ramirez — all while racial slurs were repeatedly hurled against him – a jury acquitted both defendants of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Piekarsky and Donchak were convicted only of minor crimes and face at the very most about 2 years in prison.
The evidence suggests that Mr. Ramirez was targeted, beaten and killed because he was Mexican. Such lawlessness and violence hurts not only the direct victim of the attack but also our towns and communities that are torn apart by such bigotry and intolerance. That is why I am pleased that the Department of Justice is presently investigating whether to bring civil rights charges against Piekarsky and Donchak for their role in the fatal beating of Mr. Ramirez. As you are aware a co-conspirator Colin Walsh has already plead guilty of violating Mr. Ramirez’s civil rights.
The Justice Department has a fine tradition of successfully prosecuting those who have violated the civil rights of others following an acquittal in state court of criminal charges — including convictions of Lemrick Nelson for his role in the death of Yankel Rosenbaum and convictions of Officers Laurence Powell and Stacey Koon for their roles in the beating of Rodney King.
While I do not have access to all the information you have, unless there is something that has not herertofore appeared in the public domain, I strongly recommend that your office bring civil rights charges against Piekarsky and Donchak. I believe that justice and fairness mandate such a prosecution.
I very much appreciate your serious attention to this important matter.
Edward G. Rendell, Governor
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania