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4 Shenandoah officers resign

Published December 31. 2009 01:02PM

SHENANDOAH, Pa. (AP) - Four northeastern Pennsylvania police officers who were arrested Dec. 15 on federal charges have resigned from their jobs.

The Shenandoah Borough Police Department has only three officers after the resignations of Chief Matthew Nestor, Capt. Jamie Gennarini, Officer Jason Hayes and Lt. William Moyer were accepted Tuesday night. State police are helping patrol the town.

Nestor, Moyer and Hayes are accused of orchestrating a cover-up in the fatal beating of a Mexican immigrant by altering evidence or lying to the FBI in a case against two white high school football players. Nestor and Gennarini are charged with extortion and civil rights violations in a separate case.

Messages left late Tuesday seeking comment from defense lawyers were not immediately returned.

The police officers' resignations mark the latest chapter in the case involving the beating death of 25-year-old Luis Ramirez in Shenandoah in July of 2008.

On Dec. 22 in Wilkes-Barre, a federal judge denied bail for two teens, Brandon Piekarsky, 18, and Derrick Donchak, 19, who pleaded not guilty to a hate crime charge in the death of the Mexican immigrant.

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.

In May, a Schuylkill County jury acquitted the teens 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.

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

William Fetterhoff, Donchak's lawyer, denounced the federal charges as "tragic" and "extremely unjustified."

"In most civilized countries in the western world, people are only tried once" for the same crime, he said outside court.

James Swetz, Piekarsky's lawyer, said he plans to challenge the government's jurisdiction in the case.

Prosecutors have cast Ramirez as the victim of a gang of drunken white teens motivated by their dislike of their small coal town's burgeoning Hispanic population. Ramirez, a native of central Mexico, was in the United States illegally working at various jobs.

The confrontation began when a half-dozen high school football players were headed home from a block party in Shenandoah. They came across Ramirez and his 15-year-old girlfriend in a park and an argument broke out, followed by a melee.

Piekarsky was accused of delivering a fatal kick to Ramirez's head after he'd already been knocked unconscious by another teen, Colin Walsh, who pleaded guilty earlier this year in federal court to violating Ramirez's civil rights. Donchak took part in the fight and then conspired with Shenandoah police to cover up the crime, federal prosecutors said.

Piekarsky was acquitted in May by an all-white jury of third-degree murder and ethnic intimidation; Donchak was acquitted of aggravated assault and ethnic intimidation. Both were convicted of simple assault.

Noting that Donchak has spent 70 days of his state sentence in solitary confinement for breaking prison rules, Mannion told the teen: "It's not exactly appearing that you're getting the point here, and that's something that's hard to understand."

Piekarsky's mother, Tammy Piekarsky, dated one of the officers charged and is herself named as an unindicted co-conspirator for her role in the alleged cover-up.

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