Juvenile Petitions Dropped

Juvenile petitions dropped

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2008 4:25 AM EDT

Two teenagers charged with killing an illegal Mexican immigrant in July in Shenandoah have decided not to ask to be tried as juveniles in Schuylkill County Court.

Attorneys for Brandon J. Piekarsky, 16, and Colin J. Walsh, 17, both of Shenandoah Heights, have filed documents to withdraw their motions to be tried as juveniles in a case that has drawn national attention, a spokeswoman for President Judge William E. Baldwin said Tuesday.

Neither Frederick J. Fanelli, Pottsville, Piekarskys attorney, nor Roger Laguna, Harrisburg, Walshs attorney, was available Tuesday for comment on the decision to withdraw their motions.

The decision will expose Piekarsky and Walsh to possible adult prison sentences if they are convicted, but also will allow them the right to a jury trial in their case.

Baldwin was to have presided over a hearing Aug. 26 to determine whether Piekarsky and Walsh should face adult or juvenile charges in connection with the death of Luis Eduardo Ramirez Zavala, 25, of 15 N. Main St., Shenandoah.

Piekarsky and Walsh are charged with criminal homicide, aggravated assault, recklessly endangering another person, simple assault and ethnic intimidation, while Piekarsky also faces charges of criminal solicitation/hindering apprehension or prosecution and purchase, consumption, possession or transportation of liquor.

Magisterial District Judge Anthony J. Kilker, Shenandoah, ordered those charges held for court at the end of Mondays six-hour preliminary hearing at the Schuylkill County Courthouse. However, he dismissed the two most serious charges against each, first- and second-degree murder, thereby eliminating the possibility of a life sentence against them.

Kilker also ordered held for court charges of aggravated assault, simple assault, recklessly endangering another person, criminal solicitation/hindering apprehension or prosecution, ethnic intimidation, corruption of minors, purchase or consumption of alcohol by a minor and selling or furnishing alcohol to minors against the third defendant, Derrick M. Donchak, 18, of Shenandoah.

Since he was 18 when he allegedly committed his crimes, Donchak did not have the right to ask to be tried as a juvenile.

Prosecutors have not yet charged a fourth teenager, whom they have said will be charged as a juvenile, allegedly involved in the fatal altercation.

Schuylkill County detectives allege the four participated in the beating of Ramirez on July 12. Ramirez died two days later at Geisinger Medical Center, Danville.

The case has focused national attention on racial tensions in Shenandoah, with demonstrators from other states flocking to Mondays hearing to denounce what they call a hate crime. Prosecutors have alleged that the defendants shouted racial epithets at Ramirez as they were beating him; however, Joseph Benjamin Lawson, one of their witnesses at Mondays hearing, said none of the three did so.

If convicted of the most serious remaining charge, third-degree murder, Piekarsky and Walsh each could get a maximum state prison sentence of 20 to 40 years.

However, since they will be tried as adults, they will have the right to a jury trial in the case. In juvenile court, a judge sitting without a jury would have heard the case, although no punishment imposed on either Piekarsky or Walsh would have lasted past his 21st birthday.