Goodman Blew It

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.

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “Goodman Blew It

  1. justice is blind

    Thank goodness someone is speaking up. A life is taken by physical assault, and somehow the accused only get “SIMPLE” assault? Mindblowing. These peope saying, “Good for ’em, that spic was here illegally” out ot be ashamed of themselves. Justice is blind. Side factors are not to be taken into consideration.

    What if you were traveling to Mexico for vacation (many go to Cabo and elsewhere each summer). And some Mexicans beat you to death in the street, and no one in the Mexican gov’t gave a hoot, and everywhere you turned for justice all you heard was “Good for you whitey”?

    This was one of the worst-run prosecutions ever. Goodman is totally incompetent.

    It should also be pointed out all the money that defense attorney Fred Fanelli has donated to Goodman. Why is no one talking about that?

  2. je

    Thanks for continuing to write about this. Aside from my interest in the case, as a law student this perspective is fascinating (if depressing).

  3. This is on time I do not completely agree with you Hank.
    I don’t think the charges levied against these teens were ever going to be proven when the evidence was heard. In my opinion the pressure was there for the Sch. County DA to go after these boys with murder charges and the like.
    I am not saying theses boys are not did not cause this mans death. What I am saying the evidence that was presented just did not hold water. The pressure was on, and the stories were flying about 5 Football players who sought out a illegal Mexican and beat him to death, because he was an illegal.

    Fact #1 These were teens against adults fighting this was not the 5 on 1 fight that was described in the beginning of all this.
    Fact #2 Given the opportunity to leave twice the victim did not leave. He chose to go after the teens again – as a result he is ultimately responsible for his own death.
    Fact #3 There was a gun involved. Brought by one of the guys the victim called for back up. To borrow some words from The Obama, that is a game changer.
    Fact #4 The DA’s star witness, could not even put one of the two standing trial at the scene!
    Fact #5 DA witness SAID the victim could have left, and instead called for more adults to come and help him get even, then went after the teens again.
    Fact #6 The Teens did not approach the victim first, they approached the girl, and the adult victim, stepped up to defend her honor?

    I wont even go into the speculation about what was going on between them.

    Given all of this I would wager this jury knew they had to convict these two of something But they had nothing proven other than some Teens defending themselves from Adults in a fight, who came after them a second time after the original fight had ended, and one of the adults had a gun. I am actually surprised that they actually got convicted of Simple Assault since one of them could not even be placed on a scene buy the Star Witness.

    This is a tragic thing that happened. The national media attention that it drew placed pressure on the DA to file heavy charges that could not be proven. He tried the case he had and failed, I think he knew he would fail. He is guilty of perusing a losing cause. But I believe his hand was forced by public opinion, due to people not knowing the full facts of the case.

    I am sure I will get bashed for this opinion, but hey this is reality.

  4. justice is blind

    Zellner, there’s a little problem with your laundry list. The jury convicted them of simple assault. That the Mexican was assaulted is not in dispute.
    Now then. The Mexican died.
    So, the only facts that matter are:
    Fact #1: The teens were found guilty of (simple)assault.
    Fact #2: The Mexican died as a result of that (simple) assault.

    So how then is that not aggravated assault rather than simple assault? Usually people don’t die when you’re talking about simple assault. Mind you, not murder, not manslaughter, not even involuntary manslaughter…but aggravated assault.

    The guy that probably sealed the deal for the teens was Baldwin, who instructed the jury that aggravated assault could only be in the verdict if the boys intended to kill the Mexican. But my question would be, what in the world then is the difference between aggravated assault (according to Baldwin’s version of it) and, say, attempted murder, or negligent homicide, or manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter. Common sense would seem to dictate that if you strike with the intent to kill, you are guilty of something above and beyond aggravated assault, such as murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, etc. …….

  5. Your assuming they had enough evidence to convict on Simple assault. If you take away the gun, and the age difference, yes you can, in fact you can convict on the murder charges.

    You cannot dismiss the gun, and the age difference.. adults vs. teens. With the gun, and the age difference…. you don’t even have the evidence for simple assault. Self defense. The jury, IMO, convicted for the same reason the DA charged them with murder and ethnic intimidation. They had to give the appearance that they were going to do something or be demonized for not doing so.

    I am telling you the gun made all the difference. I would also say the one boy who was not identified by the Star witness should he appeal, would win, simply because he cannot be placed at the scene of the crime other that the other young man who cut a deal with the feds, obviously he has an agenda to keep his deal in tact. The witness could not place him at the fight at all.

    Justice may have not been served but the Justice system worked as it was designed to work. You do still need to have evidence of the crime to convict of that crime.

    That may not be a popular sediment, but thank god it is still true.

  6. je

    Please. This “kids vs. adults” talking point is so overplayed. One of the defendants was 19, first of all. That’s an adult by most standards. Second, it’s a red herring. Sure, calling these guys kids is technically correct. But we’re not talking about helpless children. We’re talking about trained and physically fit athletes who obviously knew how to throw a punch. They weren’t scrambling to save themselves, either, given the sucker punch that took Ramirez down.

    The “gun” issue is a red herring also. The guy who brought the BB gun came after the whole thing went down. And didn’t the police decide it was so unimportant to the whole event that they didn’t even bother to confiscate it? What the hell were the police doing all this time?

    You spout some mean talking points, but they are full of hot air.

  7. Arthur

    Great points all around. Hank: only because I think your article is good, I ask you to please edit some of your grammatical errors, so that I can direct people to your site so that they can read it.

    (1)
    Your article is more plausible than the self-depressing comments that our county is just racist or backwards. Believe me, if this were to happen anywhere else, a jury would be forced to render the same exact verdict. I think the jury made this decision reluctantly.

    (2)
    It will be important in the coming weeks for Goodman to explain his reasoning for trying just two guys and not the rest etc. If no strategic or evidentiary problems with prosecuting Walsh and Scully existed, then maybe he blew it.

    (3)
    Aggravated Assault: you need intent! typically to cause serious bodily injury, e.g. kicking an unconscious person in the head. The problem with this is that the jury had a reasonable doubt that one of these guys was the kicker.

    You can still get someone for simple assault just by proving that they were in the fight.

    If the instruction was in fact “intent to murder” then there is a problem.

    *But self-defense was a major issue here, and maybe the jury hung their hat on that.

    (4)
    It is unimaginable that Goodman would risk anything because Fanelli gives him campaign donations. It’s just not logical, even if you don’t like either of these men.

    (5) I thought Frantz did a find job.

    (6) I think Goodman has been remarkably quiet on this case, especially in comparison to that Duke Lacrosse Attorney.

    (7) Is the shoe-problem the DA’s fault? or the investigators at the scene of the crime? I choose the latter, but can be convinced otherwise.

  8. je

    The jury might have been forced to acquit anywhere else, but only assuming they got the same show. The investigators, the police didn’t seem to take the crime all that seriously, and given what appears to be some personal ties with the defendants, it’s not surprising. Just makes me wonder if that has anything to do with the poor work by the prosecution team, too. Appears the Republican-herald is trying to forget the whole thing now though.

  9. Arthur

    your right. same show is key.

    i think (although i’m doubtful anything will turn up) that the lens should be on the first responding investigators and those who were investigating the case up until the d.a. filed charges.

  10. ladyfree

    Get Real! They were all in it from the start! The DA isnt the only one to blame for this!

  11. Kenny

    Could you possibly try any harder to kiss Fred Fanelli’s ass? With the case put on by Goodman’s office, a trained monkey could have won an acquittal!

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