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Shenandoah Hate Crime Trial: Verdict Could Be Ready Tomorrow

by Gustavo Martinez Contreras
Posted on October 13, 2010
SCRANTON, PA — The fate of the two Shenandoah, Pa., men charged with a federal hate crime could be known this Thursday, after both sides took most of Wednesday to present their closing arguments.
Derrick M. Donchak, 20, and Brandon J. Piekarsky, 18, face life in prison if found guilty of the charges stemming from the 2008 beating death of 25-year-old Luis Eduardo Ramírez Zavala, an undocumented immigrant.
Closing arguments carried the same intensity the trial did. Crystal Dillman left the room twice as both defenders delivered their final statments. Earlier, during a break, she was sitting with a photo of Luis Ramírez in her hands.
Prosecutor Myesha Braden focused her closing argument on the tattoo the men planned on having done on their butt.
“‘Rest in peace Lupe” the defendants joked about getting a tattoo on their backsides showing no sense of responsibility,” she said.
Both defenders argued that Mr. Ramirez Zavala had the chance to decide whether to fight or go away the night he was attacked on July 12, 2008.
“He did not deserve to die,” attorney William Fetterhoff said. “He had a chance to leave at the beginning and did not leave.”
Mr. Fetterhoff, who represents Mr. Donchak, 20, also said that the prosecution has misrepresented his client.
“An effort has been made to paint him (Mr. Donchak) as an ogre,” he said. “The evidence has been twisted to to portray something far from the truth.”
Mr. Piekarsky’s attorney, James A. Swetz insisted that what happened the night of July 12, 2008, was the product of youth under the influence of alcohol.
“You have a bunch of drunk kids with beer-muscles Piekarsky who wanted to fight anybody,” he said.
Swetz said that due to the alcohol the kids had drunk that night their judgment was impaired to formulate the intent of acting on the basis of race and housing.
“That’s something deep for a 16-year old, especially housing,” he said.
But Assistant Attorney General Gerald Hogan rebutted these statements by saying that what the two accused did were not the actions of kids.
“Not every kid in Pennsylvania uses slurs; not every kid in Pennsylvania listens to racist music; not every kid in Pennsylvania has a fist pad; not every kid in Pennsylvania participates in a beating where a man is kicked while he’s lying on the ground,” he said.
Then he referred to Mr. Piekarsky, who Mr. Swetz had called “beermuscles”, saying that he very well knew who he was attacking.
“Beermuscles, that may be true,” Hogan said. “But that does not mean he got into a fight with a guy he referred to as a ‘spic’.”
Judge Richard A. Caputo adjourned the court till 9 a.m. Thursday, when he will charge the jury and then let them deliberate to get a unanimous verdict.

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