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Jul 15 2004 -
Convicted of Rape, Brazilian Doctor Finds Way to Remain Free
TRINDADE, Brazil -- Back in 1997, Boadyr Veloso, a politically prominent 60-year-old physician, was becoming
well known to people in the rundown barrio of Palmares. He was the man who paid young girls for sex, using the
alias "Dr. Fernando."
One of the girls, Gislaine Carvalho da Silva, 13 at the time, said in a statement to the district attorney that she
agreed to a rendezvous with Dr. Fernando after friends promised she'd get $90, along with food and her favorite
soft drink, guarana.
In November of the same year, undercover police caught Dr. Veloso taking a 14-year-old girl into a motel. In a
rarity for a judicial system that often overlooks sex crimes involving influential people, a state court in 2000
convicted Dr. Veloso of what Americans would call statutory rape, involving seven young women. He was
sentenced to 10 years and eight months in prison.
But then, in a thunderbolt decision in February this year, the state's highest court nullified the sentence. What got
Dr. Veloso off the hook wasn't a newly discovered witness or a DNA test. It was that all seven young women had
since married. Dr. Veloso avoided doing time because of Clause VIII of Article 107 of Brazil's 1940 penal code,
which says that a sex criminal's punishment may be canceled if the victim subsequently weds.
The marriage provision harks back to a time when "a woman's destiny was marriage, and a woman who was
raped lost her chance to fulfill that destiny," says Brazilian Congresswoman Iara Bernardi. "So marriage was
seen as resolving the damage of sexual abuse."
Adding to the outrage over Dr. Veloso's case are the suspicious circumstances of the marriages. Three of the
women were married by the same justice of the peace in a 30-minute period on Oct. 5, 2001. The justice
performed the marriages of three others on Oct. 17 that same year.
In May the office of Brazil's attorney general said that canceling Dr. Veloso's jail time was "revolting and
absolutely unjust." Alleging that Dr. Veloso himself was behind these marriages, it appealed to a federal court to
reinstate his punishment. The case is still pending.
Dr. Veloso, saying that he has been the victim of unfair press coverage, agreed to a brief telephone interview.
He said his accusers have made inconsistent statements in describing his actions. He maintains that
overzealous prosecutors are manipulating the young women. As for the marriages, he says, "There is nothing
illegal about them." Dr. Veloso denies that he ever had any sexual contact with the young women who accused
him. He says he is not guilty of the charges on which he was convicted.
The case is spotlighting a broader issue in Latin America, where mistreatment of women is still reinforced by
archaic laws, as well as by broadly accepted judicial customs. Women's-rights advocates say that outdated laws
set the tone for wider discriminatory practices by police investigators, judges and juries.
Judges handling rape cases often interrogate women about their skirt length rather than the violence done them,
says Juliana Belloque, a Sao Paulo attorney specializing in women's issues. A recent study by Ms. Belloque and Brazil Information Center – US Newspaper Clipping – 12/07/2004
a colleague found that juries frequently acquit men in domestic violence cases on grounds of "legitimate defense
Repealing Clause VIII has become a pressing issue for women's-rights groups. Last year, Ms. Bernardi
sponsored a bill to do away with it that may come up for a vote before the full House later this year.
Police broke the Veloso case in November 1997, when they followed a 22-year-old woman suspected of being a
procurer for the physician and a young girl as the two were picked up by Dr. Veloso in his car and taken to a
motel, according to the investigation report. The desk clerk stalled the officers when they entered, and the girl's
subsequent testimony indicated that he had alerted Dr. Veloso. Dr. Veloso and the supposed procurer were
arrested while trying to drive out of the motel parking lot.
Later, police found the 14-year-old girl that Dr. Veloso had picked up hiding in a back room of the motel. She told
police she had been offered $90 to have sex with Dr. Veloso, and that she had disrobed. But by the time the
officers arrived, no sexual act had taken place, she said. In 1999, a state court acquitted Dr. Veloso of charges
of corrupting a minor. One reason cited by the court was that the girl had later married the brother of the
Dr. Veloso faced more serious charges in another state court. Seven other Palmares barrio girls came forward
and told of sexual encounters with Dr. Veloso. Several of them had identified Dr. Veloso after seeing him on TV
after his arrest. Since some of the seven were under the age of 14, Brazilian law allowed prosecutors to charge
him with rape.
Notwithstanding the charges, in October 2000, Dr. Veloso was elected mayor of Goiás, a central Brazilian
colonial tourist town about 80 miles from Trindade. He remains mayor today. "These are not the most well-informed
voters," says Rodrigo Santana, an opposition councilman in Goiás. "They voted for him because he
was wealthy and they thought that would make him less likely to steal from them."
In December 2000, about two weeks before Dr. Veloso's inauguration, he was convicted of rape and of inducing
the young women to commit prostitution. (Dr. Veloso is still contesting a 30-month prison sentence on the
prostitution conviction.) The state court in its opinion cast doubt on retractions of the accusations that were
signed by the victims' mothers and presented during the trial by their attorney, Eliane Ferreira Rocha. The court
said there was reason to suspect that Dr. Veloso had paid the victims to change their stories.
Since the conviction, Dr. Veloso, still a free man as he fights the ruling, has found a new legal tack. One of the
barrio girls he was allegedly involved with in 1997 had married in 1998. In September 2001, the other six, with
the help of Ms. Ferreira Rocha, sought marriage licenses from Trindade notary public Márcio Ricardo de Oliveira
Freitas. Mr. Freitas says the women didn't seem to be coerced. Indeed, some of them were already living with
the men they were marrying and had children with them. But he adds that Ms. Ferreira Rocha was clearly in
charge of the paperwork, and of transporting the women and their family members to the notary's office. "She
said she was the godmother and that paying for the weddings was her gift to the newlyweds," he says.
In an interview, Cleucelene Adorno de Lima, one of the young women who was married in the second wave of
weddings, remembers the ceremony as a "special moment." Just 15 minutes after Ms. Lima was married that
morning, her sister, another of the young women in the Veloso case, tied the knot. The justice of the peace
broke for lunch and then married the last of the young women in the afternoon.
In its appeal to have Dr. Veloso's sentence reinstated, the attorney general's office cites an article by the
Brazilian magazine Época asserting that one of the young women had said Ms. Ferreira Rocha funneled money
to them from Dr. Veloso to get them to marry.
Maria Gorete Alves, the mother of one of the young women and the mother-in-law of another, told The Wall
Street Journal that Ms. Ferreira Rocha has served as a conduit for "installment payments" from Dr. Veloso. "But
if I open my beak, I won't get another cent," she added. Ms. Ferreira Rocha declined to be interviewed.
Ms. Alves's daughter-in-law, Ms. Carvalho da Silva, now 20 years old, said she had no idea that her wedding
would help Dr. Veloso evade punishment. For her, escaping the consequences of the rape hasn't been so easy.
BRAZIL/ Wall Street Journal/ Jul12:/ By MATT MOFFETT/Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL/ July 12, 2004; Page A1