LI pilots convicted in Brazilian crash

At the ExcelAire terminal at Islip MacArthur Airport, At the ExcelAire terminal at Islip MacArthur Airport, pilots Joseph Lepore (wearing white shirt) and Jan Paladino, (wearing dark suit) arrived from Brazil where they were held for 10 weeks after an air crash. Lepore holds his daughter Nicole, 3. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

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Two Long Island pilots who survived a midair collision over the Amazon jungle in 2006 that killed 154 people were convicted and sentenced in absentia Monday by a Brazilian judge for their role in the crash.

The pilots, Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore and Jan Paladino of Westhampton Beach were sentenced to 4 years and 4 months of community service for their role in the crash.

The attorney for the pilots vowed to appeal, and pointed out that the extradition treaty between Brazil and the United States does not allow extradition on this type of charge.

Lepore and Paladino were flying a Brazilian-made Embraer Legacy 600 jet purchased by ExcelAire to Long Island from Brazil. Above the Amazon rain forest on Sept. 29, 2006, a wing of their jet struck a wing of a GOL Boeing 737 passenger aircraft. Paladino and Lepore managed to land the damaged Embraer, which carried five passengers, but all 148 passengers and six crew members aboard the Boeing were killed when it crashed.

Lepore and Paladino were acquitted of five of six counts by the court, but were convicted of one count of failing to notice that the collision avoidance system of the corporate jet was not operating at the time of the collision. Brazilian authorities have said that either the pilots turned it off accidentally, or failed to notice warnings that it was not working. The pilots have testified that there was no indication on their cockpit instruments that the system was malfunctioning.

Joel Weiss of Uniondale, the pilots' attorney, said Monday night that, "we will most certainly appeal."

Weiss said the appeals process in Brazil is more extensive than in the United States, allowing judges to review facts and reinterpret them, as opposed to just looking for legal error as in American courts. "An extradition treaty is in place between the U.S. and Brazil and it clearly does not permit extradition on this charge."

A Brazilian Air Force flight controller was convicted in 2006 of negligence in the crash.

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