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2 US pilots convicted in Brazil crash

Associated Press / May 18, 2011

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SAO PAULO — A Brazilian federal judge has convicted two American pilots for their role in an airline crash that killed 154 people, but ordered them to perform more than four years of community service in the United States instead of going to prison.

Federal Judge Murilo Mendes said in his ruling that pilots Joseph Lepore of Bay Shore, N.Y., and Jan Paladino of Westhampton Beach, N.Y., were negligent for not verifying that anticollision equipment and a device that would have alerted controllers to their location were functioning in the Embraer Legacy 600 executive jet they were flying. They have both denied that accusation.

Mendes sentenced them late Monday to four years and four months in prison, but commuted that sentence to the same amount of time carrying out unspecified community service in the United States. Mendes also said their pilots’ licenses were suspended for the time they would do community service, but it was not clear if that order would be valid outside Brazil.

The failures that led to the 2006 crash have been bitterly disputed by controllers, pilots, judges, and aviation officials.

The Americans’ business jet collided with a Boeing 737 operated by Gol Lineas Aereas, Intelligentes SA. The smaller plane 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.

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