Brazil Sentences 3 Military Police for Judge’s Murder

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A Brazilian judge gave three military police officers prison sentences of more than 20 years for the 2011 assassination of Rio de Janeiro Judge Patricia Acioli, who worked to prosecute illegal police militias operating in the city.

The three men, sentenced on January 30, received terms ranging from 22 years and six months to 26 years, reported Jornal do Brasil. One other police office has been sentenced in the case so far: Sergio Costa Junior, who admitted to having planned Acoli’s murder in August 2011. He received a 21-year sentence.

Judge Acioli was gunned down outside her home in August 2011. She had worked to combat illegal militias comprised of current and former police officers, handing down some 60 rulings against those involved in these groups. Costa confessed that Acioli’s assassination was carried out in retaliation after she ordered the arrest of three officers accused of an extrajudicial killing.

Seven more police officers are set to stand trial for the crime.

InSight Crime Analysis

The Acioli case shines a light on the power wielded by the militias. The illegal armed groups have deep roots in Rio de Janeiro, after beginning to form three decades ago as vigilante forces to combat drug gangs. Since then, however, they have evolved into advanced criminal organizations, operating extortion and kidnapping rings, and carrying out extrajudicial killings. One Rio militia dismantled last year was estimated to bring in $3 million annually from illicit activities, for example. There are concerns that these groups may be spreading to other areas of Brazil, away from their traditional area of operations in Rio.

Acioli’s assassination was likely carried out to intimidate other judicial authorities from challenging the militias. However, the fact that these three officers have been convicted and sentenced can be seen as a success for Brazil’s judicial system, which suffers from corruption, inefficiency, and an enormous backlog of cases.

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