Roberto Bravo trial: day 5

On the last hearing, plaintiffs’ counsel and the defense presented their arguments. After 2.5 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict finding Mr. Bravo liable on all charges and awarding $24.25 million in total damages.

Day 5 – Friday, July 1st, 2022:

Under cross-examination, Raquel Camps, daughter of Trelew Massacre victim Alberto Camps, testified she was born one year prior to her father’s killing in 1977 and was not aware of her father’s job or political activities. She only knew that her father was killed in 1977 by the Argentine military. In 1999-2000, Ms. Camps received reparations from the Argentine government: 200,000 Argentine pesos for her father’s killing, and a second payment of an unknown amount for her mother’s disappearance. Her older brother received payments in the same amounts. When asked about her involvement in the 2005 letter to the Argentine President written by Alicia Krueger, Ms. Camps stated she did not remember. Though she recalled the request for justice, she did not recall signing the letter.

Finally, before resting their case, Plaintiffs’ Counsel read a portion of a document written in 2008 stating that Interpol located Mr. Bravo in Miami.

The Defense began its case with video testimony of Carlos Celi, a former soldier who worked at the Almirante Zar Naval Base at the time of the massacre. When asked whether Mr. Bravo enjoyed a good reputation as a soldier, Mr. Celi reported that Mr. Bravo was “rough” or “hard,” but had a good reputation. Mr. Celi had no contact with the prisoners, but he knew they had escaped from Rawson, a maximum-security prison, and killed a guard in the process.

The Defense revisited video testimony of Marcela Santucho. During her first seven years of life, Ms. Santucho lived with her mother; after that, she primarily lived with her grandparents because her parents were traveling extensively while being persecuted by the Argentine government. Her parents and grandparents believed that she and her siblings would be safest living with the grandparents, although their house was raided by the military. Ms. Santucho testified she was too young to understand why her parents were imprisoned.

Ms. Santucho fled Argentina to live at a boarding school in Cuba in 1977. In 1985 she left Cuba for Switzerland. Though she wanted to return to Argentina in 1994, she was unable to find employment because of her last name. She finally returned to Argentina in 2008, when she received approximately 450,000 Argentine pesos as reparations for both her mother’s death and her own childhood kidnapping.

Ms. Santucho explained in 2008 she knew that Mr. Bravo was in Miami, that he was possibly arrested, and that there was a request for his extradition, but she left the investigations to her lawyers. Finally, Ms. Santucho stated she had no first-hand knowledge of what happened at Rawson Prison.

Finally, the Defense presented a portion of Alicia Krueger’s video deposition. Ms. Krueger did not recall her first husband taking any political stance against the Argentine military. When Resolution 24.411 was passed in 2000, Ms. Krueger was given 30,000 Argentine pesos; later in 2011, she received 531,059 Argentine pesos. Ms. Kruger reported that she only felt safe to go back after the military junta was finished, so the first time she returned was in 2005. Ms. Krueger explained that although she knew Mr. Bravo was in Miami in 2008, she did not know how to sue him.

The afternoon began with closing statements. Plaintiffs’ Counsel Ajay Krishnan explained the charges against Mr. Bravo as they relate to each Plaintiff’s deceased relative: extra-judicial killing—or a killing not sanctioned by a court of law—for each victim other than Mr. Camps. For Mr. Camps, as a survivor of Trelew, the charges were attempted extra-judicial killing and torture by gunshot. Mr. Krishnan laid out the Plaintiffs’ main arguments: (1) that Mr. Bravo conspired to kill the prisoners in cold blood and did not act in self-defense; (2) that the Plaintiffs filed their complaint in a timely manner; and (3) that Mr. Bravo should be held accountable for his actions. Mr. Krishnan showed the jurors photographs of the victims once again detailing their injuries and deaths.

Mr. Krishnan reminded the jury of the nature of the gunshots suffered by the victims, highlighting the press contact wound of one victim, the shot to the back of the head of another, and Mr. Camps’ statement that he was shot in the stomach. He contrasted this evidence with Mr. Bravo’s account that he fired from 9-10 feet at most when the prisoners supposedly attacked him. He asked the jury how all 19 prisoners could be killed or injured after the “attack” without a single guard sustaining an injury. He argued that Mr. Bravo’s story was disproven by the numerous inconsistencies in his sworn testimony at deposition and trial.

Defense Counsel Steve Davis reminded the jury that he is not defending the deplorable actions of the Argentine government, but rather representing Mr. Bravo. Mr. Davis argued that the prisoners were dangerous individuals who had escaped a maximum-security prison, killed a prison guard, and were labeled as extremists. Therefore, Mr. Bravo, a mere logistics officer whose secondary duty was to watch prisoners in unfit cells, reasonably perceived them and the premises to be dangerous.

Mr. Davis reminded the jury there is no evidence that a conspiracy to kill the prisoners took place and argued that in response to Mr. Pujadas shooting at the guards, Mr. Bravo acted in self-defense. Mr. Davis explained that Mr. Bravo never attempted to hide in the United States as the Plaintiffs imply, evidenced by his working with the U.S. government and creating multiple businesses by filing documents containing his home address with the Florida Secretary of State. Mr. Davis doubled down that the law of the United States required the Plaintiffs to file this case timely for Mr. Bravo to be able to fairly defend himself. Mr. Davis emphasized that the Plaintiffs, despite the fear they experienced, could only bring the case through 2018—10 years after learning of his whereabouts in Miami.

Mr. Krishnan stressed to the jury that they should not allow the defendant to blame the victims. He maintained that the Plaintiffs’ fear extended into 2010, while emphasizing that they initially tried to hold Mr. Bravo criminally liable in 2005. Mr. Krishnan concluded by underscoring that this case is not about money but a last attempt to hold Mr. Bravo accountable if he is not sent back to Argentina.

Judge Louis read the jury its instructions, and the jury adjourned to deliberate. After 2.5 hours of deliberations, the jury returned a verdict finding Mr. Bravo liable on all charges and awarding $24.25 million in total damages.