Prosecutor and Police Try Last-Minute Maneuvers to Keep US Pilots in Brazil

Brazil’s Public Attorney Office and Federal Police are doing their best to prevent that American pilots Joe Lepore and Jan Paladino, implicated in the collision with the Boeing 737 on September 29, leave the country tomorrow as ordered by a Brazilian higher court of Justice.

Failing that they will try at least to leave a strong impression  on those following the news of the release and on the pilots themselves.

The Federal Police, for example, before giving the passports back to the Americans, will try to indict Lepore and Paladino for what they call endangering Brazil’s air traffic safety. For this crime the Brazilian legislation calls for 2 to 5 years in prison.

The penal code that determines this penalty also says that jail time might rise to up to 12 years in case a plane falls down or is destroyed.

The Boeing crashed on the Amazon jungle killing all 154 people aboard in what became Brazil’s deadliest air tragedy ever. Charges of involuntary manslaughter or even culpable homicide are also in the cards.

Brasí­lia’s Regional Federal Court decision imposed a 6 pm deadline, this Friday, December 8, for the Federal Police to return the passports.

The federal authorities have also scheduled for Friday the Legacy jet pilots’ testimony. They will not receive their documents back, the Federal Police has already made it clear, before signing a document in which they vow to fully cooperate with the criminal probe in the future, including flying to Brazil if necessary.

It hasn’t been determined yet where the interrogation will occur. It could be in Brazilian capital Brasí­lia or in Rio de Janeiro, where Lepore and Paladino have been in virtual house arrest in a hotel since the beginning of October.

Brasí­lia would be the first choice, but due to the current chaos in the airports, taking the pilots from Rio to Brasí­lia by plane might be unfeasible.

Public prosecutor Adriana Brocks should make up her mind today if she will appeal the 1st Region’s (Federal District) Regional Federal Court decision to let the Americans go.

She told reporters on Wednesday that she hadn’t received yet a copy of the regional court’s order. Brocks wants to know in which juridical grounds the judges based their granting of habeas corpus relief before trying to reverse it.

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