The Partial Justice of the DOJ Indictment in the Luis Ramirez Case

When Anthony Baez as killed by former NYPD officer Francis Livoti 14 years ago tomorrow, the blue wall of silence, the blue wall of collusion and covering up went up but soon was knocked down thanks to a powerful coalition of grassroots organizations and attorneys that worked to support Anthony’s mother Iris.

While the death of Luis Ramirez wasn’t at the hands of police in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, the recent Federal indictments of five people, including three police officers, for their roles in the death and subsequent cover up, remind us that the blue wall of silence is related to the border wall and the hateful rhetoric surrounding immigration, especially Latino immigration.

From an email from the National Alliance for Immigrant Rights Coordinating Committee:

The federal indictment comes from a statute that that makes it a federal offense to interfere with a person’s housing rights on the basis of race through threat or force. Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky were also accused, along with members of the local police department of scheming to obstruct the investigation of the attack. According to the Department of Justice both civilian defendants could get life in prison for the hate crime charge, while Donchek faces additional prison time for his role in the conspiracy to obstruct justice. Three police officers, including Shenandoah Police Chief Mathew Nestor were indicted for conspiring to obstruct justice in the investigation of the attack and face up to 20 years in prison. One of the three also faces charges of making false statements to the FBI. Nestor and his second in command face additional federal corruption and civil rights charges related to another matter.

And here is where my critique of the use of hate crime laws comes in. Let’s remember that over the summer both Donchak and Piekarsky were acquitted of ethnic intimidation- Pennsylvania’ s hate crime law. In addition, Piekarsky was found not guilty of third degree murder, while Donchak was acquitted of aggravated assault.

In the case on Anthony Baez, officer Francis Livoti also got away with murder, twice. I say that because the first homicide indictment against him was thrown out on a technicality. It was only after Anthony’s mother and her supporters took over the Bronx Distract Attorney’s office that a second homicide indictment was secured. In October 1996, Officer Francis Livoti was acquitted by a State Supreme Court Justice.

Why mention the Anthony Baez’s case? Because in 1998, former New York City cop Francis Livoti was sentenced to seven years in prison for violating Baez’s “right to be secure in his own person and free from the use of unreasonable force.” under federal law and fined $12,500. Many of us who had spent years in the streets and risked arrest were pleased to see this killer cop get locked up. The charge carried a maximum of 10 years. For the activists who had worked with the family, marched in cold streets, shut down events and risked arrest, it felt like some sort of victory, some piece of justice. Pero, Iris Baez, Anthony’s mother reminded us all of something. Livoti didn’t go to jail for taking Anthony’s life, murder or even homicide or manslaughter. He went to jail for violating his civil rights.

Civil rights and the more expansive human rights matter little when you’re dead. So longer sentences make us feel better, like all the marching, chanting, petition signing, mouse clicking and text messaging meant something. Whatever the outcome of the Federal case, no one will go to jail for taking Luis Ramirez from his children and this world. So while we need to support this case, it has to be done in a larger context. Whatever the outcome of the Federal case, it still will be dangerous to be a Latino in the United States.

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7 comments on “The Partial Justice of the DOJ Indictment in the Luis Ramirez Case
  1. I agree, good post. But I am a little unclear on some things, if you don’t mind taking the time to clear things up, I’d greatly appreciate it!

    You wrote:

    “Whatever the outcome of the Federal case, no one will go to jail for taking Luis Ramirez from his children and this world.” and then:

    “So while we need to support this case, it has to be done in a larger context.”

    I’m a little confused. Are you saying that the defendants in the federal case re: Luis Ramirez are not going to jail because of murdering Luis Ramirez because they are not being charged with homicide?

    Also, in the second quote, what do you mean by “larger context”?

  2. On your first point yes.

    On your second point: I and my editor la Macha have written numerous posts about the problem with hate crimes laws and how they frame the notion of justice without really dealing with the systematic ways hate is perpetuated in the U.S.

  3. Hola Meagan,

    I will add to your reply to Bryan.

    No one in the US can be tried twice for the same murder. This is why none of these [evil] people will go to prison for Luis’ death. BUT what they can do is pile additional charges against the perps and the cops involved. As Meagan mentioned above, these charges include: hate crimes, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, civil rights abuses, federal corruption, and making false statements to the FBI. This laundry list of charges will be enough to lock these guys away for a very long time (assuming a conviction).

    A direct comparison would be that outrageous murder trial of OJ Simpson. He was acquitted of murder, yet the Goldmans won their civil case against him. Now he is finally locked up for 9-33 years as a result of [finally] being convicted of felony kidnapping, armed robbery, among other charges. At 61 years old, this will at least consume most of the remainder of his time on earth.

    It’s so wrong that no one was convicted for the murder of Luis Ramirez, yet I expect Donchak and Piekarsky will be convicted of the current federal charges. The blessing in this story is at least 3 cops (one of which was the chief of police) will also be punished for their roles in protecting these two.

    What I do not understand is why the third teen in this case, Colin Walsh, is not included in any of the current additional charges.

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