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Saturday, 9 October 2010

Jury in Shenandoah hate crime case hears racist music (USA)

Derrick Donchak, one of two men charged with federal hate crimes in the beating death of an illegal Mexican immigrant, often wore a "Border Patrol" T-shirt and listened to "racist music" when he drove around Shenandoah, one of his high school friends testified Friday in federal court in Scranton.

As federal prosecutors continued to lay out evidence racial hate was behind the murder of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, they played the song, "The White Man Marches On" whose lyrics glorify violence against minorities. It was a song Donchak apparently knew well.

"He'd sing along with it," said Colin Walsh, 19. "He really didn't like Hispanics."

Walsh was with Donchak, Brandon Piekarsky and a group of other young men when Ramirez was fatally beaten and kicked on a street in Shenandoah on July 12, 2008. He has admitted he punched Ramirez in the head, sending him to the pavement, where he smacked the back of his head.

While Ramirez was on the ground, motionless, Walsh said, "I saw Brandon kick him in the side of the head."
Dr. Isidore Mihalakis, a forensic pathologist, said Ramirez died from blunt force trauma to head. He said Ramirez's skull was fractured in two injuries, one to the back of the head when he hit the ground, the other from a kick to the head. Mihalakis said he believed the combined effects of both injuries caused the death, though he later said either one alone was serious enough to have killed Ramirez.

Walsh said after the beating Piekarsky told him that "he kicked the guy so hard his shoes flew off."
Ariell Garcia, another witness at the scene who saw Ramirez lying on the ground, began to cry when she was asked about the kick to the head.

"It was like a muffled crack," she said.

Her husband, Victor Garcia, said Ramirez had called him on a cellphone that night, saying, "I'm getting beat up. Come back." About 20 minutes earlier, Garcia said he had dropped Ramirez and his girlfriend off at a nearby park.

In the background, Garcia said he heard voices yelling, "Mexican, spic." Garcia said he tried to break up the fight when he got back to the park until someone threw a punch at him.

"People were still trying to kick him, stomp him," Garcia said. He said he saw Ramirez get kicked in the head and watched the group of young men run away. He tried to "wake up" Ramirez who had foam coming out of his mouth.

When police began arriving on the scene, Garcia said he told them which way they had run. He said the police told him to "take everything out of your pockets."

"But they never went after the kids," Garcia said.

There was other testimony about steps the police did take after in the days after the fatal beating.

Julia Mickalowski, the mother of Brian Scully, one of the young men at the scene that night, said she received a phone call from Lt. William Moyer, telling her that if her son had gray blue sneakers to "get rid of them."
The small-town nature of Shenandoah has surfaced in other testimony involving Piekarsky's mother, who was a friend of then-Police Chief Matthew Nestor and was dating one of the officers, Patrolman Jason Hayes.

Hayes, who is no longer a police officer, stopped Donchak and Piekarsky while they were running from the scene that night. Nestor, Hayes and former Lt. William Moyer are scheduled to stand trial in January in federal court for their roles in the alleged cover-up.

After the beating, Walsh said Piekarsky joked to his friends about getting a Hispanic name tattooed on their bodies while hatching a story they would tell the police, one that would exclude any references to racial slurs being uttered that night or kicking him.

Walsh recalled a visit he had received from then Moyer at his house. He said Moyer, "asked if I talked with my friends."

"You know what I mean?" the officer said before leaving, adding, "Good luck, buddy," Walsh testified.
Defense attorney James A. Swetz, representing Piekarsky, quizzed Walsh on the plea agreement he signed in the federal case against him. Walsh said he had been told he could receive a nine-year prison sentence but hopes to receive only four years. Prosecutors have offered to seek a reduced sentence in exchange for his cooperation against Donchak and Piekarsky.

Though he has pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime, Walsh said he does not believe what he did that night was motivated by racial hate on his part. He said he believes racial hate was behind the beating inflicted on Ramirez by Donchak and Piekarsky

The trial resumes Tuesday morning. The courthouse is closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday.

Citizens Voice