The workings of the Brazilian justice system took another strange twist for two American pilots convicted of negligence in the midair collision that resulted in the loss of a GOL Boeing 737 in 2006. A Brazilian court on Monday upheld the criminal conviction of Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore but reduced their sentences a second time. After first sentencing the pilots to four years in jail, Brazil's courts then converted the sentence to "community service." Federal prosecutors and family members of passengers on the 737 appealed and on Monday the courts upheld the conviction but further reduced the sentence. The two are now officially free to go about their business but are supposed to check in with Brazilian penal officials from time to time. Neither man has been in Brazil since being allowed to return to the U.S. a couple of months after the accident.
Paladino and Lepore, both from Long Island, N.Y., were flying a new Embraer Legacy 600 from Brazil back to the U.S. at the altitude and heading assigned by air traffic control when the left winglet of the smaller aircraft sliced through the wing of the airliner, sending it out of control and killing all aboard. The Legacy pilots managed to find a small military field in the Amazon jungle and safely land the business jet. In absentia, the two were found guilty of negligence for turning off the aircraft's transponder, making it invisible to the 737 crew bearing down on them at the same altitude and in the opposite direction. Paladino and Lepore have repeatedly said their transponder was working at the time of the crash and suggested it was the airliner's transponder that was faulty.