US pilots to be retried for Brazil airline crash

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Associated Press

Posted on October 9, 2012 at 12:00 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 9 at 3:05 PM

SAO PAULO (AP) — Two American pilots of a business jet will be retried for their role in a 2006 airline crash that killed 154 people on an airliner in Brazil, the federal prosecutor's office said Tuesday.

Pilots Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore, New York, and Jan Paladino of Westhampton Beach, New York, will be retried in absentia Monday, a statement released by the prosecutor's office said.

The two were allowed to leave Brazil two months after the crash, but were convicted last year and sentenced to 52 months in prison. The sentence was commuted to community service in the United States.

The retrial was ordered after prosecutors appealed the sentence and asked that it be increased to 69 months in prison, without the possibility of it being replaced by community service.

"The sentence should be increased because despite being professionals the defendants kept the aircraft's anti-collision system turned off for almost one hour, thus causing the accident," the statement quotes prosecutor Osnir Belice as saying.

The two pilots have insisted anti-collision system and transponder on the business jet they were flying were never turned off. They deny any wrongdoing.

The Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet collided with a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Lineas Aereas Intelligentes SA. The smaller plane, owned by Ronkonkoma, New York-based ExcelAire Service Inc., landed safely while the larger jet crashed into the jungle, killing all aboard.

It was Brazil's worst air disaster until a jet ran off a runway less than a year later in Sao Paulo and burst into flames, killing 199 people.

Lepore and Paladino faced charges in Brazil of negligence and endangering air traffic safety for allegedly flying at the wrong altitude and failing to turn on the aircraft's anti-collision system. The judge convicted them of impeding the safe navigation of an airplane.

Theo Dias, a Brazilian lawyer for the American pilots, has appealed last year's sentence.

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