Pressure placed on Brazil

In efforts to bring justice in the 2007 murder of an area pilot, U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Niles, and Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, introduced two bills in the House of Representatives that would clamp down on a fugitive’s native country.

The legislation is aimed at forcing Brazil to extradite Claudia Hoerig, who fled the country after her husband, U.S. Air Force Maj. Karl Hoerig, was murdered in their home Newton Falls home.

Claudia Hoerig purchased a Smith and Wesson .357 revolver in March 2007, three days prior to police finding Hoerig’s body in the home. He had been shot in the back of the head while tying his shoes, police said.

Before the body was found, Claudia Hoerig, using her husband’s status as a commercial airline pilot, flew to Brazil where she was born. She since has been named as the suspect in the case.

Despite requests to have Hoerig returned to the United States to face trial, she has been given shelter by Brazil. Ryan and Johnson said they hope to use the legislation they proposed last week to to set a precedent for other countries that may be harboring fugitives from justice.

“This is not a political matter,” Ryan said Thursday in a phone conference from Washington, D.C. “This is about what’s right and wrong.”

The first bill, “End Immunity for Brazilian Criminals Act,” would deny visas to Brazilians because America has no way of extraditing them if they commit crimes while in the United States. Johnson said Brazil is setting an example for terrorists to attack the nation and then flee to Brazil.

While Brazil’s constitution protects its citizens from extradition, the country signed a Treaty of Extradition with the United States in 1961.

To further complicate the case, Hoerig revoked her Brazilian citizenship 14 years ago, but as a national, she lives freely in the country.

The second bill, “Karl Hoerig Foreign Aid Suspension Act,” would end approximately $14 million in aid to Brazil. Johnson said he is adamant about keeping good relationships with Brazil but that it is time for the Hoerig family to have justice.

“There is no reason why Brazil should continue receiving foreign aid dollars if it refuses to show basic respect to a friend and ally,” Johnson said in a news release after the phone conference. “Since Brazil has chosen not to extradite Maj. Hoerig’s wife to the United States to stand trial, this legislation would stop foreign aid to Brazil until the Brazilian government has a change of heart.”

Ryan attempted alone in 2011 to introduce legislation to block aid to Brazil, but the bill stalled. Now with Johnson, the two hope that by creating a bi-partisan alliance, they can increase awareness of the issue among fellow politicians and expedite the process of getting the bills passed.

While the pair is spearheading the legislation, they said that they have about 10 others who will be co-sponsoring the bills. Neither was certain of when the bill will reach the floor but both are determined in their efforts.

“We are not going away,” Ryan said.