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Several Pennslyvania men pleaded not guilty to charges related to a fatal racially motivated beating, along with police department corruption.
According to Citizensvoice.com, a federal grand jury returned multiple indictments. The three indictments include federal racial hate crime, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, official misconduct and extortion charges.
The first indictment charges Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky with a federal hate crime for fatally beating Luis Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant, while shouting racial epithets at him.
According to the indictment, Ramirez was walking home from a local festival, when he was attacked by the PA men who yelled racial slurs at him.
Ramirez died two days later from injuries.
As previously discussed, President Obama signed a new hate crimes bill into law which not only punishes attacks motivated by race, religion or ethnicity but includes attacks motivated by someone's gender or the fact that the victim is gay, lesbian, transgender or disabled.
Piekarsky and others, including members of the Shenandoah Police Department, participated in a scheme to obstruct the investigation of the fatal assault, the indictment also alleges.
An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
However, if convicted, Piekarsky and Donchak face a maximum penalty of life in prison on the hate crime charge. Donchak faces 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges and an additional five years in prison for conspiring to obstruct justice.
Separate indictments accuse Shenandoah police chief, Matthew Nestor, and three officers under his command with a variety of charges, including witness tampering and lying to the FBI.
If convicted, the defendants face 20 years in prison on each of the obstruction charges and an additional five years in prison for conspiring to obstruct justice. Moyer faces an additional five years in prison for making false statements to the FBI.
Under the law, obstructing justice involves willfully interfering with the process of justice by influencing, threatening, harming, or impeding a witness or potential witnesses.