Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Hate Crimes Pennsylvania Revisited

Earlier today I referred to the recent indictments handed down in Shenandoah,  Pennsylvania regarding the death of Luis Ramirez, in July 2008.  Ramirez was beaten up by former local football stars, Derrick Donchak and Brandon Piekarsky. In May they were acquitted of the most serious charges and at the time something seemed fishy.  Well now we know where that smell of salmon came from, the Shenandoah Police Department.  Three of Shenandoah's finest are facing federal charges of official misconduct, obstruction of justice, conspiracy and even extortion (the extortion charge is from a separate case).  Since the three officers make up half of the Shenandoah force, there aren't enough cops to conduct business in town and the State Police will have to chip in.  One of the officers was the Department Chief, Matthew Nestor.  It doesn't seem like the mayor is a big fan, he said: "The chief is arrogant... They feel that they are a power unto themselves and they're not accountable to anyone...", except the Department of Justice and Attorney General Eric Holder.
I know some people will think this is a case of justice finally being served, but I don't think so.  The United States Department of Justice could not possibly investigate corruption in every little hamlet across the U.S.  It would be impossible.  What this story reveals is that police departments typically get away with almost anything.  This case would be no different except for it's high profile nature. If these officers are willing to destroy evidence and alter paperwork in a murder/hate crime case, what do you think they were able to get away under less scrutiny.  This type of corruption is fairly commonplace across the country.  In fact you don't have to go far from Shenandoah to find a recent case of similarly disturbing corruption.  In Wilkes Barre, PA, just fifty miles north on I 81, this past February Judge Mark Ciavarella and Judge Michael Conahan plead guilty to fraud.  Their crime was receiving over 2.6 million dollars to send kids to a juvenile detention center, and no I am not kidding. 

I'm not saying every police officer destroys evidence or every judge gets extra dough for locking kids up.  But how often do you think children of police officers or judges are given a pass on a speeding ticket? Or a DUI? Or a simple assault?  These situations take place everyday across the U.S. and demonstrate that the nation's criminal justice system is unjust.  I think the revelations in the case of the murder of Luis Ramirez help to prove my suspicions.

And today there has been another case of justice finally being served (please notice the ironic tone in the words I have just written).  After thirty-five years, James Bain will be released after serving time for a crime he did not commit. Bain applied for DNA testing 4 times in recent years and was denied.  The fifth time was the charm and it turns out, he is completely innocent.  His mother is dying and said she was holding on, hoping he would get out to see her.  He can never get those 35 years back.  I'm glad that he is out and at 54 years old, hopefully he can create a meaningful life for himself.

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