POTTSVILLE — An all-white jury was seated Wednesday in the trial of two Northeastern Pennsylvania teenagers charged in the fatal beating of an illegal immigrant from Mexico.
Schuylkill County prosecutors allege the attack on Luis Ramirez, 25, was racially motivated. Witnesses have said the victim was sucker-punched and kicked in the head during a late-night, epithet-filled melee.
Prosecutors have charged Brandon Piekarsky, 17, of Shenandoah, with third-degree murder. He and Derrick Donchak, 19, also of Shenandoah, were charged with aggravated assault, reckless endangerment and ethnic intimidation.
Police have said that a third teen, Colin Walsh, 17, punched Ramirez in the face, and that Piekarsky kicked him in the head as he lay unconscious in the street.
Walsh has entered a plea in federal court, but documents in the case have been sealed.
As he entered court Wednesday, Frederick Fanelli, Piekarsky’s lawyer, characterized the beating as a street fight, not a hate crime.
“This has been a very heavy burden to carry, and this is the first day of getting the rest of their lives restored,” he said.
The trial opens Monday with a jury of six men and six women. President Judge William Baldwin warned jurors not to discuss the case with anyone. Because of heavy pretrial publicity, more than 600 potential jurors were sent summonses.
The attack took place July 12 in Shenandoah, an economically depressed town about 80 miles northwest of Philadelphia.