Pilots confirm that they will testify in the USA on crash of Boeing in state's Far North
April 24, 2008 - 15:15
The defense of pilots Joseph Lepore and Jan Paul Paladino confirmed that the two will appear at the interrogation, which will be performed in the USA, by determination of the Federal judge of Sinop, Murillo Mendes, in the trial on the crash of the Gol Boeing, in the Far North of Mato Grosso. The 53 questions which will be put to the two have already been finalized and translated to be sent to the American courts. They were written by the judge himself and also by the Federal Prosecutors' Office, which returned the indictment against the two.
Mendes wants to know the experience of the two as pilots, and if they have already piloted an aircraft similar to the Legacy, since, during the flight, there is a stretch of conversation in which someone (pilot or co-pilot) says "I am afraid to play with this thing in the air because I am afraid that if I do something it will throw everything off course."
The magistrate also asks if they analyzed the flight plan and if they were aware that the route foresaw three altitudes - level 370, level 360 and level 380, and why the aircraft always flew at level 370. He also asks what information was passed to them by the São José dos Campos tower when the plan was authorized and if somebody turned the transponder off during the flight, and if they perceived that it was off.
He also wants to know why they tried to enter into contact with the control center before the collision, since, before it, only one contact had been made, and also who pronounced the phrase "hate to have the Brazilian Air Force on our tail", and if this phrase indicated only a manifestation of dislike for the Brazilian Air Force or indicated a desire to free themselves of regular surveillance.
No date has yet been set for the interrogations to be performed and sent back to Brazil. Only after this proceeding, will the testimony of the witnesses be taken up again. They will be interrogated by precatory and rogatory letters, since they reside in other States and countries.
The other four indicted in the case, controllers Jomarcelo Fernandes dos Santos, Lucivando Tibúrcio de Alencar, Leandro José Santos de Barros and Felipe dos Santos Reis, who were working on the day of the accident, were already heard, last September, during a hearing in Sinop.
Judge formulates questions
The substitute judge of the Single Federal Court of Sinop, Murilo Mendes, formulated 53 questions which will be sent by means of a rogatory letter to the North American courts for the testimony of the pilots of the Legacy jet, which collided with the Gol plane minutes before the Boeing crashed in 2006, Jan Paul Paladino e Joseph Lepore. Among the questions asked, the magistrate wants to know which of the two accused of being involved in the accident, which killed 154 people, pronounced the phrase, "hate to have the Brazilian Air Force (FAB) on our tail" on the day of the accident.
Within the question, the judge further asks if "this phrase indicates only a manifestation of disdain for the FAB or if it indicated a desire to free themselves of ordinary surveillance." He also wants to know if someone turned off the TCAS/transponder during the flight, if at any moment someone perceived that it was turned off and if both admit that the transponder could have been turned off by inadvertently, or by carelessness or negligence.
The defendants will be heard in the United States, the country where they reside, because Mendes reconsidered, on March 13, his decision on hearing the pilots overseas, basing himself on a decision by the Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF) in a similar case, in which the 1st Chamber deferred a habeas corpus filed for a foreign defendant to be heard in his country of residence. The questions are being translated by a certified translator, José Carlos Gallas, and still this month should be sent to the USA where the depositions will be scheduled, according to the agenda of the American courts.
According to the decision, send though the assistant to the prosecution, Alfredo Waknin, when the decision was issued, the pilots' lawyers communicated that they would appear at the interrogation and, for this reason, they would not present written questions to the judge. However, they asked Murilo Mendes that they be permitted to ask questions of the American judge, in their clients' defense, during the interrogation. Mendes granted, for the Brazilian courts, the request for the effective participation of the lawyers in the interrogation.
However, as the Treaty of Legal Cooperation signed between Brazil and the Unites States states that requests will be executed according to the laws of the country in which the act takes place, the magistrate added that "if the motion granted will or will not be accepted, is question which is up to the American authority responsible for conducting the act". In relation to the questions, he further guarantees that the defendants do not necessarily need to respond to them objectively and that whenever they feel it necessary they can provide such clarifications as they consider to make their answer best understood.