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LI pilots in ExcelAire crash to testify

A Brazilian judge has decided that two Long Island pilots will testify next month by video conferencing from Washington in a trial stemming from a 2006 crash over the Amazon.

The pilots flying for ExcelAire of Ronkonkoma previously agreed to testify, but only from the United States, in a rare criminal case over a plane crash.

According to Brazilian media reports, the judge on Friday scheduled Joseph Lepore, 46, of Bay Shore, and Jan Paladino, 38, of Westhampton Beach, to testify from the Brazilian consulate on March 30-31.

Joel Weiss, the Uniondale attorney representing the pilots, said "we haven't yet seen the judge's decision nor have we seen exactly what request he is making to the United States authorities. When we know exactly what is planned, we will react according to the treaty [covering judicial cooperation] and the law."

Federal Judge Murilo Mendes in Sinop scheduled the testimony in the criminal case against the American pilots and Brazilian air traffic controllers.

Lepore and Paladino were transporting a new Brazilian-built Embraer Legacy 600 purchased by ExcelAire to Long Island when the aircraft collided with a Gol Boeing 737 on Sept. 29, 2006. Although they were able to land their damaged plane safely, all 154 aboard the Boeing died.

The pilots were detained for more than three months after the crash.

The primary Brazilian air traffic controller handling the flight has already been sentenced.

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