Local News

Brother, Girlfriend Testify In Lillington Man's Federal Detention Hearing

Posted July 21, 2004 7:04 a.m. EDT

— A former CIA contractor from Lillington is in federal court in Raleigh Friday to face charges he abused a prisoner in Afghanistan.

A detention hearing will determine whether David Passaro, 38, will be released on bond. Passaro arrived at the court house around 7 a.m. The hearing began just after 8 a.m. and is expected to last through the afternoon.

Passaro's attorneys began by calling three witnesses, including Passaro's brother, to testify why they believe Passaro is not a flight risk.

The federal prosecutor called Passaro's girlfriend, Wake Forest police detective Bonnie Heart, to the stand. Under questioning, she denied devising a plan with Passaro for him to escape.

The prosecutor contents Passaro is a serious flight risk and a danger to the community because of many aliases, training and covert operations and a history of assault.

Passaro is charged with four counts of assault for beating prisoner Abdul Wali, who later died.

"It is alleged that Passaro beat Wali repeatedly with hands and feet and a large flashlight. Wali died in his cell on June 21, 2003," said U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft during a Washington press conference on June 18.

"President Bush has made it clear that the U.S. will not tolerate criminal acts of brutality as those alleged in this indictment," Ashcroft said.

Passaro is assigned to a Special Forces group at Fort Bragg. He took leave last summer to become a contractor for the CIA in Afghanistan. His attorney says there was no evidence of assault in an autopsy report.

"With the governor of the province saying that there were no marks, bruises or signs of abuse on the body, it certainly has drawn into question the events that occurred," attorney Gerald Beaver said.

Passaro is not charged with murder, in part, perhaps, because prosecutors would need to examine Wali's body and that is buried in a place that is unsafe for U.S. troops.

Passaro's ex-wife says it is a complicated situation for a man with a complicated personality.

A judge told Passaro that he could face up to 10 years in federal prison for each of the four assault charges.