Military police officer Rodolfo da Silva Viera was sentenced to 18 years and 8 months in prison for the murders of Roberth Sandro Campos Gomes and Roberto Aparecido Ferreira in May 2008.
The defendant, whose sentence was pronounced on September 5 by a court in Itapecerica da Serra, in the greater São Paulo metro area, allegedly belonged to a death squad composed of PMs and calling itself “The Highlanders,” because its victims were all found decapitated. Other members of the group have been charged with this double homicide as well as other murders in the region.
According to the state high court, the jury affirmed the materiality, authorship and relevance of two qualifications to the charge: vile motives and interfering in the investigation … but was successful in arguing that his role was less significant than that of other participants. The sentence was handed down by Judge Antonio Augusto Galvão de França, who supervised th investigation. Rodolfo da Silva Viera has been imprisoned for more than four years and will not be allowed his freedom during the course of his appeals.
José Miguel da Silva Júnior, defense lawyer for the PM, said he is analyzing the sentence in order to decided whether to appeal. “First, I will try to partially commute the sentence. But this has been a victory for us, because the sentencing council accepted the thesis of a lesser participation in the double homicide. Rodolfo confessed to driving the car to the crime scene, but had been pointed to as the leader of the group,” the attorney said.
This is the third trial involving a group of police that came to be known as “the highlanders.” In the first trial, four PMs were convicted in July 2010 and were sentenced to 18 years and 8 months in prison for the murder of a mental defective. The PMs faced a jury for the murder of Antônio Carlos Silva Alves, in October 2008. Mentally defective, the victim was allegedly confused by the PMs with a thief. Witnesses were present when the victim was approached by the police.
The existence of the “highlanders” was only detected during the investigation of this incident. The victim was seen being placed in a PM vehicle in October 2008. His body was found two days later, headless and with the hands cut off. The victims all lived in São Paulo, but were discovered dead in Itapecerica da Serra.
In March 2011, PMsJoão Bernardo da Silva and Jorge Kazuo Takiguti were judged not guilty by a popular jury of taking part in the murders of Roberth Sandro Campos Gomes, aka Maranhão, and Roberto Aparecido Ferreira, aka Bebê. The victims were killed on May 6, 2008.
Nine defendants were arrested and charged with belonging to the death squad and the murder of three persons. The name “highlander” is an allusion to the 1980 [sic — 1986 is the correct date] film starring Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery in which warriors cut off the heads of their enemies. The state judicial police, which investigated the second crime, the head and hands of the victims were cut off in order to make identification more difficult.
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