RALEIGH, N.C. – A CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan detainee to death will stay locked up until his trial, after his girlfriend’s testimony caused a federal magistrate judge to worry that the man might try to run.
Magistrate Judge William Webb denied David Passaro’s request for release from the Wake County Jail and ordered the former Army Special Forces medic held without bond until his trial. Webb said he did not consider Passaro, of Lillington, N.C., dangerous. But he said he believes the government’s evidence against Passaro is strong and the defendant has the means, training and motive to flee from the law.
The magistrate was especially concerned about conflicts between telephone recordings and testimony from Passaro’s girlfriend, a Wake Forest, N.C., police detective who met Passaro on the Internet site www.cupid.com nine months ago.
Questioned by prosecutors, Bonnie Heart said she knew little about Passaro’s duties in Afghanistan or his work for the CIA. She testified that she was slow getting the court a list of Passaro’s dozen firearms because she didn’t know much about guns, despite seven years in law enforcement.
She said she did not know what was in a file cabinet Passaro asked her to keep for him, nor had she seen anything in his behavior that suggested he was considering fleeing.
Moments later, prosecutors played a CD of telephone conversations between Passaro and Heart, recorded by deputies while Passaro was in the Wake County Jail.
In those talks, Passaro and Heart discussed the CIA. He instructed her to retrieve his passport from a safe deposit box and ensure the security of some papers “that don’t exist.” At one point, Passaro guided Heart to an envelope of $10 and $20 bills he hid under a chair cushion – money he did not reveal to investigators when they asked about his assets. Passaro told a probation officer he had $17,300 in bank accounts and an IRA but mentioned nothing about other cash.
A grand jury indicted Passaro earlier this month on four charges of assault and assault with a dangerous weapon against detainee Abdul Wali. Wali, 28, died at a U.S. base in Asadabad, Afghanistan, on June 21, 2003.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Candelmo said that at least four people, including three soldiers on active duty with the 82nd Airborne, will testify they saw Passaro beat Wali “10 to 30 times” with a metal flashlight during two days of interrogation.
Witnesses also saw Passaro kick Wali with enough force to lift him off the ground, Candelmo said. One person will testify that during a break in the questioning, Wali asked his guards to “please shoot me” rather than allow Passaro to continue the beating.