Was US Nun Killer Suspect in Brazil Innocented in Exchange for US$ 60,000?

Amair Feijoli da Cunha, Tato, condemned as killer of US missionary Dorothy Stang Brazilian Public Prosecutors in Brazil's northern state of Pará will conduct a civil inquiry to investigate if Amair Feijoli da Cunha, also known as Tato, condemned and imprisoned for serving as an intermediary in the assassination of American missionary Dorothy Stang in 2005, changed his testimony in the case in exchange for approximately 100,000 Brazilian reais (US$ 60,976).

Tato testified earlier, clearing the rancher Vitalmiro Bastos de Moura, also known as Bida, of being the one who ordered the crime.  Bida was pronounced innocent on May 6, 2008, of the accusation of double aggravated homicide – he was suspected of having offered 50,000 reais (US$ 30,488) to have Dorothy Stang killed on February 12, 2005.

For Edson de Souza, the prosecutor who led the accusation, the testimony of Tato was essential in Bida's innocent verdict by 5 votes to 2 in the Grand Jury Court.

In his own trial in April of 2006, when he was sentenced to 17 years in prison for his involvement in the crime, Tato incriminated Bida, saying that Bida had, in fact, sought him out to arrange for someone to kill the missionary.

But last Monday, as a witness, Tato changed what he had said a little over two years ago.  Despite this, he confirmed the supposed authenticity of the video presented by the defense in the Grand Jury.  The recording, made in October of 2006, showed him saying that Bida had not ordered the death of anyone.

In the trial of last Monday, crying, Tato said that he had been coerced to say that the rancher had been the one who ordered the assassination and that he could now tell the truth since he had become an evangelical.

The suspicion of the public prosecutor's office comes from the fact that in 2006, on the eve of the trial of Tato, his wife Elizabete Coutinho, had confirmed receiving, for the payment of debts, close to 100, 000 reais (US$ 60,976) from Bida.

"And after Tato was condemned, he had nothing more to lose," affirmed the prosecutor Souza.  "Why not change his testimony in exchange for money?"  He added that it was just a few months later when the video in which the intermediary clears Bida of guilt was recorded.

In an interview with daily Folha de S. Paulo, Bida confirmed that he made the payment on that occasion and that it was negotiated and paid in installments by one of his brothers.  But he also affirmed that the money was for the payment of oxen that Tato had given him as part of the payment for land in the region of Anapu in Pará.

"The prosecutors had even told Tato that he should have considered the leniency program because he would never again receive my money", said Bida.

Souza said he was surprised by the appearance of the video, annexed to the files of legal documents the previous week, and that until then he had not known of its existence.  The recording of the video, made while the intermediary was still in prison, did not have judicial authorization.

He also questioned why the video had not been shown in May of 2007, when, in his first trial, Bida was condemned to 30 years.  For the prosecutor, this could be related to a supposed negotiation with Tato.

The lawyer of the rancher affirmed that he had already known of the recording and that it had not been used in 2007 because, during the questioning of witnesses, Tato affirmed the innocence of Bida.  Souza refuted, "However, the confirmation of Bida's guilt by Tato was one of the main reasons why Bida received the maximum penalty."

Despite these contradictory facts, the prosecutor, who has already participated in more than 500 sessions of the Grand Jury, did not cast doubt on the impartiality of the jurors, affirming that they were only responding to what had been presented to them.

FSP

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