Pilots Unlikely to Attend Brazil Hearings
The lawyer for two Long Island pilots accused of criminal charges in connection with a midair collision between their Embraer Legacy 600 business jet and a Gol Airlines Boeing 737-800 last September has told Newsday his clients will likely not return to Brazil to testify. Joel Weiss said Brazilian law allows ExcelAire pilots Jan Paladino and Joe Lepore to testify from their "home state" and they're willing to supply written, recorded or live video testimony. "We would like to tell our story," Weiss said. "We're willing to participate in accord with normal Brazilian procedures, which allows testimony to be given in the home state of the accused. But anything else amounts to an end run around the guarantees and protections of our extradition treaty with Brazil." The judge in the case has set Aug. 27 for the pilots' testimony and Aug. 28 to hear from four air traffic controllers also indicted in the collision, which resulted in the deaths of all 154 people aboard the Gol Boeing 737.
The judge has said he wants Paladino and Lepore in his courtroom, but he has not yet subpoenaed them. Weiss said that if a subpoena is issued, he would challenge it in Brazil's higher courts on the grounds that Brazilian law allows testifying in absentia for these kinds of charges. The pilots have been charged with what amounts to negligence for allegedly contributing to the cause of the crash by not noticing their aircraft's transponder wasn't working. If convicted, they could be jailed up to three years. Three of the four controllers face similar jail terms, but another has been charged with intentionally exposing the aircraft to danger and he could be put away for 34 years.