Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Once More Down the Rabbit Hole

I hate to trot out the old Alice in Wonderland woodcut again, but the Brazilian criminal court in which the two American pilots are now being tried has taken us, once again, down the rabbit hole.

As reported here previously, the charge that the pilots face (as trumped-up as it is), is not an extradictable one under the applicable U.S.-Brazil treaty, because it does not allege intent.

Nevertheless, Judge Murilo Mendes of the federal court in Sinop, a regional center on the edge of the Amazon jungle over which the Sept. 29 mid-air collision occurred, is insisting that the two pilots come to Brazil to testify, rather than testifying in depositions in the United States, as allowed by the treaty.

The jurist's reasoning: A request to avoid coming to Brazil (where the two Americans were held without charge for over two months after the crash in an atmosphere of loud anti-Americanism and politicization of the accident) is an attempt "to revert the natural order of things. The defendant should come to the judge, and not the judge to the defendant."

Well, so much for international treaties, which must of course bow to some Brazilian regional judge's ad-hoc argument invoking "the natural order of things."

Meanwhile, here's another flash from down the rabbit hole:

Claudio Pimentel, a Brazilian lawyer representing the families of some of the 154 who were killed in a multi-million-dollar civil suit against the Americans is involved in the criminal trial as an assistant to the prosecution.

And he's even allowed to make pronouncements that the defendants are, of course, guilty. (Why would they be on trial if they were not? And how else could money be made?)

What's more, the civil suit lawyer/assistant to the prosecution is loudly calling for the "preventive arrest" of the American pilots (an arrest that could only be legally accomplished, of course, if the pilots were to come to Brazil as defendants seeking a fair trial. As I said, welcome down the rabbit hole).

The newspaper Diario de Cuiaba (translation by Richard Pedicini in Sao Paulo), has the civil-suit lawyer/assistant to the prosecution accusing the pilots of "disrespect for the families and the Brazilian courts."

From relatives: "the absence of the pilots at the [trial's first day] was a demonstration of carelessness with the fact." And, "They are afraid to face the court, which will bring to light their blame."

Lawyers for the American pilots are appealing the judge's decision that they must come to Brazil to defend themselves. The Brazilian judge has been assured that, in the United States, he would be free to conduct questioning as he sees fit.

[A personal note: Now that emotions are heating up again with the trial under way, I'm back in the gun-sights of various lackeys in the Brazilian media -- where journalism traditionally reflects, and genuflects to, entrenched power and money, and where there is a lack of tradition of independence.

As the only eyewitness who has been free to write openly about this tragedy (the other six survivors being constrained by various legalities), I've done so, with conviction, since day one. But I've done it as an independent journalist, reporting from here, on my own personal blog -- which is widely read, and parsed, by interested parties in Brazil.

Certain Brazilian reporters and politicians, reflecting the weird xenophobia of Brazil's chattering classes, find it politically expedient to misidentify my affiliations. They do this willfully and dishonestly.

[Appended Aug. 30: It has been pointed out to me that the Brazilian media in question also act without regard to the perils of libel (the laws of which are clear in Brazil) -- specifically on the matters of willful negligence, reckless disregard for the truth, a refusal to correct egregious errors, and a disregard of damage to reputation caused by deliberately repeating falsehoods.]

Anyway, let's be clear (to the extent that clarity is permitted to exist in a poisoned atmosphere):

This is a totally independent blog produced by a freelance writer who answers to no one but himself. I write it because I was there, because I know what happened, and because it is my duty to bear witness.

It says a lot about how thin-skinned and insecure certain elements among the powerful are in Brazil, that they get so emotionally upset about a mere independent blogger's reporting on what they're up to.]



Will P said...

That the Brazilian judge thinks the mountain should come to Moses does not surprise me. Brazilian judges get their jobs by passing a set of difficult written and oral tests. Only people with the time and money to study for them - and who are geeky enough - ever pass. They get a good salary (8,000 US$ a month and up) and can't be fired. They are supposedly required to have practiced law for at least a year or two, but it is not hard to get around this weak requirement. I think most of them have never been real lawyers. The whole process seems to produce people who have the attitude that they are part of an elite caste. Apparently, the job goes to the head of a lot of them, especially since many become judges in their 20s. I'm basing this on what my Brazilian wife tells me, though she is a lawyer and therefore perhaps biased.
I have lived here for 9 years, and
on the whole, even though it is absurdly slow, I would trust Brazilian legal system to come to decent verdicts - UNLESS IT WAS A SITUATION WHERE THE FIX WAS ALREADY IN - not a small caveat! If I were the pilots, I would not come back here in a million years. The comments by ex-SecDef "Pampers" Pires alone justify their staying away. Would you return to the US if Rumsfeld had said that kind of stuff about you - before you had even been formally accused of anything? Anyway, best wishes from down here in the rabbit hole.

Carlos said...

Pilots don't need to worry:

1. There is no way to be extradited.
2. They don't have anything to say. They said it all: Controllers put them in wrong level, transponder had a failure.
3. If judge believes, ok. If doesn’t, it doesn’t matter.
4. Will take years to be convicted.
5. Most Brazilians are on their side.

Why to waste their time to defend themselves? Excelaire, as their employer, will loose this suit and its insurance company will pay the bill. Congratulations to Joe Sharkey's campaign.

A. Castro said...

I agree the words of Mr Will & Mr Carlos.
Mr. Sharkey your work at these blog is a great and valuable job to show for all the people the true!
You must to continue writing and pointing the true's way in facts!

yukonjack said...

"Why to waste their time to defend themselves? Excelaire, as their employer, will loose this suit and its insurance company will pay the bill. Congratulations to Joe Sharkey's campaign."

I doubt it. Since the suit was filed in San Francisco whatever the Brasilian courts rule won't have much bearing on proceedings there. Let's wait and see what the final report of the investigation says but the fix may very well be in there also. The plaintiffs will have a difficult time proving that the transponder was intentionally turned off which they will surely attempt to do. And if the Legacy was in fact flying at its assigned altitude proving negligence or reckless indifference will be even more difficult. The insurance company will fight this by every means possible and most aviation experts will side with them.