Brazil’s federal appellate court (Superior Tribunal of Justice, TSJ) which sent the governor of the Federal District, José Roberto Arruda, to jail on February 11, is going to charge him with another crime: misrepresentation because he attempted to bribe a witness.
But this time they are going to request authorization from the Legislative Assembly (CLDF), which is necessary according to the constitution or charter of the Federal District (“Lei Orgânica”).
No authorization was sought from the CLDF to put Arruda behind bars on February 11 because the judges on the STJ decided that the governor was clearly jeopardizing a corruption investigation and it was imperative to get him out of action immediately. This was after an emissary from the governor was filmed offering a bribe to a witness
Ever since, the need for authorization has been the subject of heated discussion. It is certainly in the law. And the only Supreme Court justice who voted in favor of habeas corpus for Arruda, on March 5, in a 9 to 1 vote denying him habeas corpus, cited that law in which 2/3 of the legislature would have to approve any criminal procedure against the governor.
Arruda is already accused by federal prosecutors (PGR) of using false documents to prove that the money he was filmed receiving from the whistleblower, Durval Barbosa, was used to buy “small souvenirs” for a Christmas campaign.
The small souvenirs would be the now infamous panettones Arruda said he gave to the poor. According to the PGR, the governor presented four receipts for money he said he received from Barbosa: the first, for 20,000 reais in 2004, the second for 30,000 reais in 2005, the third for 20,000 reais in 2006 and the last one also for 20,000 reais in 2007; all of them without specific dates.
The PGR claims that in reality the four receipts were drawn up, printed and signed by Arruda on October 28, 2009, after which they were initialed by Barbosa who, the next day, October 29, 2009, as part of his plea bargain negotiations with the Federal Police, delivered the receipts to the police and signed a declaration that he never gave the money to Arruda on those dates.
On February 4, the Legislative Chamber or Assembly of the Federal District (CLDF) voted 19 to 0 to accept an impeachment motion against the governor, José Roberto Arruda. The next step in the impeachment process is for the governor to present his defense within 20 days.
However, before that there is a small formality: the person being impeached has to be formally notified of the fact.
So, on February 5, the first secretary of the CLDF went out to the headquarters of the Federal Police’s regional headquarters in Brasilia, where the governor has been incarcerated since February 11, and presented Arruda a document explaining that he was being impeached.
Arruda refused to sign the document and the machinery ground to a sudden stop. Arruda gave the first secretary a handwritten note explaining that the notification he had a right to receive was a complete copy of the inquiry that federal prosecutors (PGR) had left at the federal appellate court (STJ), where it was being analyzed.
According to Arruda’s lawyer, the governor will make his defense only when he has access to the complete notification. “He is not going to present half a defense. He intends to present a complete defense,” said the lawyer, Nelio Machado.
Machado also complained about the governor’s accommodations, saying it was difficult for him to talk in private with his client. He criticized the fact that Arruda could not see his daughter. “He is in a prison that is not compatible with his position as governor,” declared the lawyer.