POTTSVILLE, Pa. - Two teens acquitted of the most serious state charges in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant could face federal charges.
The Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is reviewing evidence surrounding the fatal fight last summer between high school football players and illegal immigrant Luis Ramirez in predominantly white Schuylkill County, spokesman Alejandro Miyar said yesterday.
A Schuylkill County Court jury last week acquitted Brandon Piekarsky, 17, of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation and Derrick Donchak, 19, of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault.
They are from the small blue-collar town of Shenandoah, where the July 12 fight occurred when Ramirez, 25, was walking with a 15-year-old girlfriend and encountered a group of teens, at least some of whom had been drinking.
The case has exposed racial tensions in the area, which has attracted Hispanic immigrants in search of farm and factory work.
"The Civil Rights Division is reviewing the evidence, to determine if there is a prosecutable violation of federal civil-rights statutes," Miyar said.
Another defendant, Colin Walsh, 17, pleaded guilty to a federal civil-rights charge and testified at the trial, admitting he threw a punch that knocked Ramirez unconscious. He could be out of prison in four years. Brian Scully, 18, is charged in juvenile court with aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation.
Defense lawyer Robert Fanelli argued that Ramirez was the lone adult at the scene and contributed to the fatal fight. He also argued that prosecutors offered leniency to key witnesses.
The simple-assault convictions carry a possible one- to two-year prison term. Sentencing has not been scheduled. Donchak was also convicted of corruption of minors and an alcohol charge.