More on Brazil federal judge Murilo Mendes's amazing verdict from its voluminous 86 pages shows just how far the judge went in exonerating the American pilots on the most serious charges, while convicting them on a single lesser count.
[Translation from Richard Pedicini in Sao Paolo]
The judge leaves no doubt that the pilots were correct in their assertion that they were at the altitude assigned to them by Brazilian air traffic control:
He wrote: "The information was excessively clear. The expression 'permission for Eduardo Gomes' leaves no doubt that the control tower was ordering the pilots to fly at level 370 [that's 37,000 feet, my note] to Manaus. It's a very categorical piece of information.
"If the flight level came unequivocally, but without an indication of the final destination, it would be comprehensible to demand that the pilots question the authorization, that they seek additional clarification, that they ask if the level were to be used only to Manaus or if it serves for the whole route. But no. Mister João Batista [a controller] made the affirmation stripped of any ambiguity. Mister João Batista, furthermore, responsible for this tremendously gross error, decisive for the outcome that was seen, was not even indicted by the Federal Prosecutors' Office.
"Given the lack of an accusation against him at the trial level, I sent the case to the Prosecutor-General. And the Prosecutors' Office understood that João Batista is not guilty of anything. The Prosecutors' Office is one and indivisible. The word of the Prosecutors' Office is one only. It is not divided in as many opinions as it has members. If the Prosecutors' Office did not, at its highest level, wish to indict the controller responsible for the scandalously false information on the flight level, is it legitimate to want to blame the pilots, when the power "to confuse" of the message passed by the tower is evident? He who says "permission to Eduardo Gomes" and adds, immediately, the flight level, is saying to the pilot that he should fly to Manaus at that level.
"Is there any doubt about this? For me, no. [...] it would be at the very least unjust to not punish the one directly responsible for false information, the one with active conduct (who committed it), and to condemn the one who received the incorrect message, with evident potential to mislead the addressee (who practiced omissive conduct)? This is, after all, what wound up happening."
The judge sentenced the two Americans to four years and four months of prison, which was commuted to four years and four months of community service in a Brazilian office within the United States. The judge also directed that the pilots' flying licenses be revoked.
That sentence is, naturally, unenforceable in the United States, where a Brazilian court has utterly no jurisdiction. Dopey U.S. media accounts like that by the A.P. have reported the community service in the U.S. assertion without noting the absurdity of a Brazilian judge from some Amazon backwater city presuming he has any standing whatsoever within the United States.
To which I now add, court is adjourned.