There. Someone finally said it.
The talk around the water cooler the past few days centered around one question: How did the Shenandoah teens get away with murder? The answers given have spanned everything from the race card to conspiracy theories. Thank goodness the Clarke Report is here to set the record straight. In my opinion, the main reason why Brandon Piekarsky and Derrick Donchak were found not guilty of homicide and aggravated assault in the beating death of Luis Ramirez was the poor performance of Schuylkill County District Attorney James Goodman.
From his rush to judgment as soon as the media’s cameras turned their lenses on Schuylkill County, which tainted his objectivity and focus during the investigative stages, to his tactical errors in and out of the courtroom during the past two weeks, DA Goodman should bear the brunt of the responsibility and criticism for this fiasco.
It was Goodman who decided to ignore Office Senape when he reported that Arielle Garcia had identified Brian Scully as the person who kicked Ramirez in the head while he lay unconscious on the ground to instead focus his attention on Piekarsky.
It was Goodman who decided not answer “the shoe question” until mid-trial.
It was Goodman who decided to drop all state charges against the sucker-puncher, Colin Walsh, in exchange for his testimony even though the evidence suggested he was the most aggressive teen during the fight.
It was Goodman who decided to charge Brian Scully as a juvenile in exchange for his testimony even though he had changed his story three different times and was reportedly the instigator of the entire melee.
It was Goodman who decided to allow Rob Frantz, a part-time ADA who is also a partner at Goodman’s old law firm, to be the lead prosecutor instead of Goodman himself or the office’s top gun, AJ Serina.
Just think where we’d be, if Goodman had just relaxed, gotten all the facts before talking to reporters, and charged the right teens with the right crimes. Justice might actually have been done!
From my vantage point, it looked as though Goodman became intoxicated with the limelight from the state and national news media, which pushed him into making arrests before the police and county detectives knew for sure just what went down that night. Then, when that adoration turned into pressure to convict, Goodman shriveled up in the intensity of that same limelight. Its not an unusual tale. A small-time prosecutor who sees the opportunity for to take a step up the political ladder, but unwisely takes short cuts to get there faster, ends up getting burned, and being ultimately worse off than he was before it all started.
Now, I am not taking anything away from Fred Fanelli or Jeffrey Markosky. They were PHENOMENAL as defense counsel. But, Goodman’s blunders made their job all the more easier. It was like giving steroids to Secretariat. In the coming months, the citizens of Schuylkill County are going to receive flyers in the mail, listen to commercials on the radio, and watch advertisements on television, explaining how much “good” Jim Goodman has done as our district attorney. If you start to believe any of it, I would suggest thinking back to the moment you heard that the verdict in the biggest trial in Schuylkill County history was NOT GUILTY and then make cast your ballot.