Image: Former councilor José Eduardo Alves da Silva, accused of ordering the killing (Angelina Nunes/Abraji)
One year, ten months and 22 days after the murder of broadcaster Jefferson Pureza, 39 years old, in the city of Edealina (GO), the jury acquitted two accused of involvement in the crime, despite recognizing their participation in the case. Former councilman Jose Eduardo Alves da Silva, accused of being the mastermind of the murder, and janitor Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos, were convicted only for the corruption of minors who committed the murder. Santos was accused of introducing the youth to the then councilman.
The controversial result was announced at 11.50 pm yesterday (December 9, 2019), after a trial that lasted 15 hours and 20 minutes and featured a heated discussion between the defendants' defense and the prosecution. It also had the testimony of witnesses at the Court of Edeia, a city 31 km from Edealina, and 125 km from Goiania.
Pureza was killed on the night of January 17, 2018, with three shots to the face when he was surprised while resting on the porch of his house. According to investigations, the crime was negotiated 5,000 reais and a revolver.
Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos, one of the accused, looked at the camera with a smile. Silva was sentenced to four years in prison and Santos to four years and ten months. The two defendants celebrated the decision on hearing the reading made by the judge. In practice, they will benefit from a release permit and be free to wait for the next steps of the case.
Yesterday's decision surprised the prosecution since on October 4 another person involved in the case was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Leandro Cintra da Silva is the owner of the car wash where the crime was negotiated and the cell phone used by one of the minors to arrange the murder with the other teenagers.
The three minors involved have already completed socio-educational measures and were held for six months. One would be the sniper, another would have driven the motorcycle used in the crime, and the third would have referred the other two for the service. Only the latter appeared at the trial and repeated his version of the facts: that he would have received 200 reais from the former councilman for referring the executors and that he was threatened by the sniper to assume the crime.
Even before Judge Aluizio Martins Pereira de Souza announced the result of the vote, friends and family of the accused – a majority of those present at the trial – celebrated the decision of the seven jurors outside the court.
During the 15 hours and 20 minutes of the trial, neither those present nor the jury respected the judge's requests to remain silent, without expressing a reaction to the depositions or debates between the prosecution and defense. The seven jurors – three women and four men – also disregarded the instruction of incommunicability between them and with the spectators. During lunch and snack breaks, it was possible to see them talking to each other and also to other people present at the court.
The lawyer of the former councilman, Henrique Paixao, considered the result coherent, but the penalty, excessive.
“There was no evidence of payment for the crime, but at the same time, there was evidence of his conversation with the minors. This [the result] happened because the jury found the evidence to be neither overwhelming nor strong enough for the conviction. We filed an appeal because the sentence for the corruption penalty [for minors] is very close to the maximum (four years). We understand that it should be close to the minimum, i.e., one year.”
Prosecutor Jose Eduardo Veiga Braga Filho, on the other hand, considered the result “unorthodox” and informed that he would appeal for a new jury.
“The jury convicted the two of them for the crime of corruption of minors and, despite recognizing their involvement in the murder, acquitted in the case of murder. They are sentenced with a lenient sentence. We will appeal to a higher court and decide whether there will be a retrial or not.”
For the prosecution assistant, lawyer Joel Pires, “there was a confusion” when it came to voting on the questions (materiality, authorship, acquittal, and qualifiers):
“I did not like it. I cannot understand. They acknowledge the authorship of the two in the crime, but even so, when voting on the items, they acquitted them. We will appeal.”
Igor Pureza, the radio host's son, wept when he heard of the decision.
“It was not expected, but God knows what he does. I expected another result, and the real culprit will appear. I am very distressed,” said Igor, who left the Forum with his mother, Ernestina Marins, before reading the jury's decision.
“I'm confused. We need an answer. If it wasn't them, someone is to blame. My children need an answer,” she said.
Some jurors were dispersed throughout the trial. One of them, for example, took care of the nails of her left hand three times with a nail file she removed from a black purse with floral motifs. The same judge looked at the audience 23 times in the space of an hour and waved to some acquaintances. The behavior was repeated throughout the hearing 103 other times.
Another juror napped during the rejoinder by lawyer Henrique Paixao, despite the defender's tone of voice – loud enough to irritate another member of the jury, who considered himself disrespected. A colleague helped him with a headache pill. The same judge offered painkillers and muscle relaxants, which were well received by the prosecution's representatives and another judge.
The defendant Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos' defense strategy was to try to prove that he did not negotiate the crime with the minors, in addition to raising suspicions about why Jefferson Pureza left his home's gate open while resting on the porch. Lawyer Oldemar Jose da Rocha went on to repeat in his argument the thesis that, if there is doubt, the defendant should be benefited.
“Rather a culprit on the street than an innocent in jail.”
Lawyer Henrique Paixao, the defender of the former councilman Jose Eduardo Alves da Silva, presented his client as a simple man, who talks too much, undergoes controlled medication, and has “outbreaks from time to time.” He even went so far as to say that Silva's nickname is “Sanhaço,” like the small bird, and with that members of the audience laughed. In his explanation, he changed his tone of voice, put on an accent usually found in humble people and used expressions from the countryside, which were well received by some jurors and the audience.
The highlight was the presentation of intimate photos found on the radio host's cell phone with several women and texts from private messages with statements that the lawyer considered "spicy" about Pureza's encounters with one of them: “He (Pureza) was a ladies man, he had several women. But do you want to see sex shop stuff? I don't think you need to,” he asked the audience.
In the reply, the accusation reminded the jury that the sentence given to the defendants would serve as a message to Brazilian society. The acquittal or conviction, according to the prosecutor and the prosecution assistant, would be an example of how those who make reports of misappropriation of public resources should be treated.
Tim Lopes Program
The murder of the radio host was the first case handled by the Tim Lopes Program team, developed by Abraji (Brazilian Association of Investigative Journalism) with support from the Open Society Foundations to combat violence against journalists and impunity for those responsible.
A network of traditional and independent media outlets is activated whenever there is a crime related to the exercise of the profession. The team follows the investigations and publish reports on the allegations in which the journalist worked until he or she was killed. Currently, the network includes Public Agency, Post Office (BA), O Globo, Poder 360, Ponte Jornalismo, Projeto Colabora, TV Aratu, TV Globo, and Veja.
The second case is that of radio broadcaster Jairo de Sousa, who died in the early hours of June 21, 2018, with two shots to the chest when he arrived to work on radio Perola FM in the city of Braganca, Para. The suspect of ordering the crime is councilman Cesar Monteiro. He reportedly hired a group of ten people to carry out the crime. According to the records of the investigation, the murder would have cost 30,000 reais.
In March of this year, councilman Cesar Monteiro had his preventive detention revoked after the Para Court of Justice granted him a habeas
corpus. The release of the councilman happened 26 days after the expiry of his license from the City Council of Braganca. At the time, a group was articulating a request to revoke the councilman's authority. The councilman's defense appealed to him to await, in freedom, the judgment of the case. There is still no date set for the popular jury.
More about the case of Edealina
Jefferson Pureza started working in Edealina in 2016 and made constant references and accusations about bids and contracts signed by the city administration in the previous year. The broadcaster belonged to a political group opposed to the group of ex-mayor Joao Batista Gomes Rodrigues, or “Batista Boiadeiro” and councilor Jose Eduardo, who was secretary of Urban Actions under Batista Boiadeiro and later a councilman.
One year before his murder, on his January 26, 2017, Pureza said live on his show “A voz do povo” that there was a plan for his death. He said that, if something happened to him, those responsible would be the councilman and the former mayor.
Other incidents occurred throughout 2017. In August, a radio transmitter was stolen, and there was a small fire. The following month, the house where Pureza’s ex-wife and children lived in Pontalina, a neighboring city, was shot. In November, a new fire destroyed the Beira Rio FM facility. The receiver was stolen. The broadcaster used his own Facebook profile to broadcast the show.
In 2018, thirteen days after the murder of Jefferson Pureza, city councilman Jose Eduardo Alves da Silva went to the police station in Edeia, another city next to Edealina, to provide clarifications.
Silva said that Pureza only referred to him as a “vote transfer councilman,” because he accused him of having transferred voters from other cities to guarantee his election in Edealina. The broadcaster also stated that the councilman was appropriating the land of the community garden.
Silva assumed having planned an attack on Pureza in early 2017, as the broadcaster himself had said then. He said that in 2017 he would have arranged with a boy named Junio to beat Jefferson up "to get him out of town" and set his car on fire. The promised money, 3,000 reais, would be paid by Pastor Thiago Marinho, current Secretary of Administration. The plan did not succeed because, according to the councilman, his wife found out about it. Marinho denied in testimony that he was involved in the case.
According to a complaint from the Public Prosecutor's Office filed in April 2018, Silva planned another aggression against the broadcaster in late 2017. He suspected that Pureza had a relationship with his ex-wife, Marley Alves de Jesus Faleiro - whom the councilman had previously attacked, threatened with death, and planned to murder in 2013.
On occasion, janitor Marcelo Rodrigues dos Santos would have introduced Silva to a teenager and Leandro Cintra da Silva, owner of a car wash in Aragoiania, a city next to Edealina. At the meeting, the councilman offered them 4,000 reais in exchange for the killing of the radio host. The plan was again postponed due to Santos' arrest for involvement in drug trafficking.
The young man did not accept the offer and referred another to the service, who charged 5,000 and a revolver. Later, he was approached by the councilman, who would have paid him 200 for referring to the other. The janitor made contact with another teenager for riding the motorcycle used in the execution of Pureza.
Councilman Jose Eduardo Alves da Silva denied that he ordered the killing of Pureza. According to him, he went to Aragoiania just to help Santos find a job card and talk about the woman's separation and the suspicions of her involvement with the radio host. Santos is the one who would have suggested that he kill Pureza and introduced the boys to the order, but he would not have accepted and said that he was committed to "go on with his life."
In the janitor's version, the facts are reversed: Silva would have talked about assaulting Pureza. Santos denied having presented to the councilor the minors who carried out the crime. The minors denied their participation in the crime.
The radio broadcaster's complaints
In his radio shows, Jefferson Pureza mentioned two 2015 lawsuits that involved Joao Batista Boiadeiro, former mayor of Edealina. In one of them, the Public Prosecution Office of Goias pointed out suspicions of the politician's involvement in public works fraud.
According to the Public Prosecutor's Office, there were indications that Batista Boiadeiro would have benefited the company Leopoldina Construtora in public tenders. The representative of this company was Jose Cassiano da Costa, the municipal secretary responsible for the Department of Transport under the current mayor Winicius Miranda, a member of the same political group as the former mayor Joao Boiadeiro.
Company Leopoldina would have been hired to carry out a work that was almost finished in a parking lot. The same company had other contracts with the municipality of Edealina in 2015, earning 384,800 reais. Then, it changed its corporate name to Sheknar Construtora and expanded its areas of operation, starting to win bids also in the field of events.
The process is stalled at the Court of Edeia. The Public Prosecutor's Office asked for new steps and testimonies to explain this relationship between company contracts and the former mayor.
The second lawsuit that Jefferson Pureza cited in his radio show is from 2017, referring to a 2015 case. Prosecutor Maria Cecilia de Jesus Ferreira filed a complaint against former mayors Batista Boiadeiro and Divino Celio Neves.
Boiadeiro was arrested and accused of using city hall machinery for illegal extraction of sand in a river that runs through Neves' farm. The case is stalled in court.