Lawyer challenges Aruba officials in tourist case
Monday, August 15, 2011
ORANJESTAD, Aruba (AP) — A U.S. tourist detained in Aruba in the death of his travel companion has cooperated with investigators and should be immediately released because there is no evidence against him, his defense lawyer said Sunday.
Michael Lopez, the Aruban lawyer for Gary Giordano, denied statements by prosecutors that his client is no longer answering questions about what happened to Robyn Gardner, his companion on a short trip to the Dutch Caribbean island.
“We cannot deduce that there is hard proof to sustain a demand by the public prosecutor against our client,” Lopez said.
Giordano, a 50-year-old business owner from Gaithersburg, Maryland, has granted four interviews to investigators and accompanied them twice on visits to the area where he said Gardner disappeared while they went snorkeling, Lopez said in a written statement.
“To date, our client has given all possible cooperation to the investigation,” he said. “Where our client has been asked the same question more than once he referred to previous statements.”
Giordano is scheduled to appear before a judge Monday for a detention hearing. Aruban Solicitor General Taco Stein said Sunday that prosecutors intend to file a petition asking a judge to extend Giordano’s detention for another eight days while authorities continue to investigate the case. Under the Aruban system, any charges would not be filed until later.
Stein previously told The Associated Press that investigators believe the 35-year-old woman from Frederick, Maryland, is dead.
The couple came to Aruba on July 31 and Giordano reported her missing on Aug. 2. Police detained Giordano three days later as he tried to fly back to the United States, saying they had questions about a number of his statements to investigators. A search of the area around where they went snorkeling has yielded no trace of the missing woman.
Lopez says his client did not know anything about Aruba and that Gardner suggested they visit the island in the southern Caribbean.
The lawyer criticized the prosecutor’s office for releasing a photo of Giordano as they seek witnesses who may have seen the couple together on the island.
“We note that doing this without any kind of proof that the client has committed a crime will damage his good name and jeopardize his company in the States,” the lawyer said. “This can lead to substantial damages.”
Aruba has asked for help in its investigation from the FBI under a law enforcement cooperation treaty between the U.S. and the island. The FBI searched Giordano’s home in Maryland but has declined to discuss the case.
Given the presence of the treaty, and Giordano’s cooperation, his lawyer said he should be allowed to return home and could be extradited back to Aruba if he is later found to have committed any crime.
Aruban law, which is based on the Dutch legal system, allows prosecutors to request that Giordano be detained for a maximum of eight more days.
After that period, prosecutors could ask a judge to order Giordano held for as long as 60 days while they prepare a case, but that would require more substantial evidence. Charges would be filed at the end of the 60 days if prosecutors take the case to court.
“We are not charging yet,” Stein said Sunday. “That will be at the end of the line.”
This period of investigatory detention was used by Aruban authorities to detain a number of people who were later released in the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, a case that was never solved.
Associated Press writer Ben Fox contributed from San Juan, Puerto Rico