US State Department Out of the Loop on American Pilots Detained in Brazil

During the habitual daily press briefing at the US State Department, yesterday, December 1st, deputy spokesman Tom Casey was asked about the condition of the American pilots who had their passports confiscated and have been detained for more than two months in Brazil after their Legacy executive jet collided with a Boeing 737 causing the death of all 154 people aboard.

From his evasive response, Casey didn’t seem to know anything about the subject. Even though, anyone following the case knows that there are two pilots involved, Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, and that the collision was between a Boeing and a small jet, the State Department spokesman referred to "several U.S. pilots" who "have been asked to remain in Brazil while Brazilian aviation officials look at the circumstances surrounding the collision of a couple of aircraft."

Twice he told the reporter asking the questions to direct his questioning to the Brazilian authorities. And when asked if the pilots were being treated according to the law, Casey commented: "My understanding at this point is that this investigation and the activities surrounding it are proceeding as we would expect them to."

What follows is an excerpt of the press briefing transcript containing the material related to the American pilots:

QUESTION: Do you have any update for us on the condition of these U.S. pilots that are in Brazil that were part of that crash a couple of months ago? Any update on their condition and what the U.S. might be doing to expedite their release or assist them in any way?

MR. CASEY: Well, I don’t think that there is a lot new that I have to offer you on this. This is the case of several U.S. pilots that are not charged with anything and not under arrest but have been asked to remain in Brazil while Brazilian aviation officials look at the circumstances surrounding the collision of a couple of aircraft. We have continued to be in touch through our consular officers with the individuals themselves and with their family members. We’re certainly in regular contact with the Brazilian Government about that case. We do want to see them conclude the investigation in a way that certainly respects their normal legal and regulatory procedures. But in terms of movement on that, I’d have to refer you to the Brazilian authorities.

QUESTION: Do you have information about the U.S. attempts to get them sent over to the United States?

MR. CASEY: Well, again, this is something that’s proceeding in accordance with Brazilian laws and practices and our main message to the Brazilian Government is we want to make sure that they are treated in accordance with the laws and the standards that Brazil has.

QUESTION: And just one final follow-up? Do you feel that they are being treated within their norms of international and Brazilian law at this point?

MR. CASEY: My understanding at this point is that this investigation and the activities surrounding it are proceeding as we would expect them to, but again I don’t have any real specifics to offer you. You really have to talk to the Brazilians about the details of that investigation.

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