RALEIGH, N.C. — A federal judge has ruled that a Lillington man can be released from jail while he awaits trial.
David Passaro is accused of beating a detainee with a flashlight while working in Afghanistan last year for the CIA. The prisoner later died.
Since U.S. Marshals arrested Passaro in June, he has been behind bars in federal custody. During that time, details about his case have emerged through court documents and hearings.
Earlier in August, prosecutors told a federal judge Passaro was a flight risk. Prosecutors say with help from his girlfriend, Wake Forest police Detective Bonnie Heart, Passaro stashed away guns and more than $8,000 in cash. They also claim the couple talked in code during a taped jailhouse conversation about the location of the money and secret documents.
Prosecutors argued Passaro should be considered a danger to the community and a flight risk, but in an order issued Tuesday, federal judge Terrance Boyle disagreed, saying Passaro has roots in the area. He has lived in the community for nearly a decade. And as a former soldier, the judge noted Passaro served his country honorably.
The judge went on to say the government produced no evidence of Passaro exhibiting dangerous behavior that could be considered a threat to the community.
Even though the judge ruled Passaro can be released from jail, he has not yet been released.
Passaro will be released into the custody of a neighbor, Sgt. First Class Jay Smith, of Lillington. Passaro will be electronically monitored and placed on a curfew from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
News of the judge's ruling made its way to Heart through her sister, Deborah Russell. Russell spoke on Heart's behalf to protect the case.
"She's in the background now, but when she can she'll be right here doing the talking for herself," Russell said.
Russell said Passaro will prove the judge right.
"He will stay and fight. He's been fighting for this country for 12 years or more and that's not going to change," she said.
Heart was placed on a 30-day unpaid leave of absence from her job with the Wake Forest Police Department. Now the town says her leave has been extended for eight more weeks to help Heart deal with stress.