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Pa. teens plead not guilty to hate crime charge

•  Recent Cases     updated  2009/12/23 20:49


A federal judge denied bail Tuesday for two Pennsylvania teens who pleaded not guilty to a hate crime charge in the death of a Mexican immigrant, noting that one defendant is accused of kicking the victim in the head "as if you were kicking a field goal."

Brandon Piekarsky, 18, and Derrick Donchak, 19, were charged in the July 2008 beating death of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez in the town of Shenandoah. A separate indictment charges three police officers with obstructing the investigation into Ramirez's death.

Judge Malachy Mannion ruled that Piekarsky and Donchak should remain locked up pending trial, calling them dangers to the community. He set a March trial date.

A Schuylkill County jury acquitted the teens in May of the most serious state charges against them — including third-degree murder in Piekarsky's case — angering Hispanic leaders and civil-rights groups. Gov. Ed Rendell then asked the Justice Department to pursue civil rights charges.

Mannion noted that it is extremely rare for the federal government to pursue charges in a case already decided in state court.




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