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Southern Justice in Pennsylvania

El Diario/La Prensa, Editorial, Staff Posted: Jun 18, 2009

The life of Luis Ramirez does not matter in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. It must matter to the U.S. Department of Justice and everyone concerned with hate attacks.

Yesterday, the men who were convicted of simple assault and other minor charges in the fatal beating of Ramirez last July received a sentence of up to 23 months in a county prison. Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak could spend as little as several months in prison before becoming eligible for probation.

To the jury in this case, Ramirez's life was only worth a conviction on simple assault. This yielded short prison sentences that did not fit the brutal, hateful attack committed. The jury somehow determined that Piekarsky and Donchak were not guilty of ethnic intimidation charges, even though they were part of a gang that attacked Ramirez and yelled ethnic slurs before, during and after the beating that left the father of two foaming at the mouth.

For decades, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has tracked violent hate crimes. The organization called the outcome yesterday a case of southern justice in a small Pennsylvania town.

Crystal Dillman, Ramirezs companion, told the court that their children ask for where their daddy is. Dillman now has to explain why the bad guys are getting a slap on the wrist.

These meager sentences leave justice gasping for further redress, said Gladys Limon of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF). We agree.

MALDEF will deliver a petition signed by more than 50,000 people to Attorney General Eric Holder demanding that the Department of Justice press federal charges against Ramirezs attackers. We join this call.

The dangerous precedent set for how the life of an immigrant, of a Latino is weighed by our judicial system is unacceptable. The DOJ must act quickly on a case of justice so grossly denied.

Related Articles:

How Much Is a Latino Life Worth?

No Justice for Vincent Then, No Justice for Luis Now

FCC to Investigate Link Between Hate Speech and Hate Crimes

Forbidden Love in Shenandoah, PA: Behind Beating Deaths of Immigrants

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