Lawyers Plan To Appeal; Pilots Staying Put For Now
In a move anticipated by counsel
defending two American pilots in the aftermath of a fatal midair
collision last year, on Friday a Brazilian judge denied the pilots'
request to testify in their case in that country from US soil,
citing an international legal treaty.
Joseph Lepore and Jan Paladino were involved in a mid-air
collision with a Gol Airlines 737 over Brazil in September 2006
that claimed the lives of 154 people. They are being tried in
Brazil on manslaughter-related charges and could be facing three
years in prison, as ANN reported.
"We will appeal today's ruling," said attorney for the ExcelAir
pilots, Joel R. Weiss, who said last month he expected the judge's
move. "Disallowing the taking of testimony in the
United States from indicted defendants would amount to an end run
around the protections of our extradition treaty and offend the
concept of fair play."
Federal Judge Murilo Mendes's decision was supported fully by
federal prosecutor, Thiago Lemos de Andrade. He insists the
request, made by the pilots' Brazilian attorney, Theo Dias, and
their absence from the hearing is merely a delaying tactic, Newsday
"The request is absolutely unreasonable," the judge said. "The
defendant is the one who must go to the judge, and not the
Carlos Pimentel, an attorney representing the family of one of
the victims, requested an arrest warrant be issued for Lepore and
Paladino. The request was denied as the pilots had accepted a
It was "amazing that a personal injury lawyer seeking money for
a client would be given a voice in the criminal justice system,"
Weiss contends a legal assistance treaty as well as Brazilian
legal procedure provides support for their request to provide
testimony from the US without interference. The "pilots are
innocent and strongly interested in testifying and telling their
Lepore and Paladino stand accused of turning off the transponder
on the Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet they were delivering to the
US. They were struck by a Gol airlines-operated Boeing 737 at
37,000 feet. The Embraer landed safely having suffered a small
amount of tail damage, but the 737 went down killing all 154 people
The pilots deny turning off their transponder. They contend they
were flying where instructed by controllers. Both were detained in
Brazil for more than two months following the accident before being
allowed to return to the US.