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Accused contractor has confrontational past
N.C. man indicted in Afghan detainee's beating
Friday, June 18, 2004 Posted: 1826 GMT (0226 HKT)
RALEIGH, North Carolina (AP) -- A CIA contractor charged with fatally assaulting an Afghan detainee had been fired from a Connecticut police department after an assault 14 years ago and a history of run-ins with wives and neighbors, authorities and acquaintances said.
The contractor, 38-year-old David A. Passaro, was charged Thursday with two counts each of assault and assault with a dangerous weapon -- a flashlight.
Passaro was charged in connection with the June 21, 2003, death of Abdul Wali. Wali had gone to a U.S. base in Afghanistan on his own accord that month and surrendered to authorities. They suspected him of participating in rocket attacks against the base and wanted to talk to him.
Three days after he surrendered, he was dead, and authorities accuse Passaro of beating him. Passaro was not charged with murder because no autopsy was performed to establish a cause of death, Justice Department officials said.
It was the first time civilian charges have been brought in the investigation of prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Attorney General John Ashcroft, in Washington, D.C., said the indictment sends a message that "the United States will not tolerate criminal acts of brutality" against detainees. Wali's case initially was referred to the Justice Department by the CIA in November.
Passaro was arrested at Fort Bragg, in North Carolina. He was on leave from a civilian Army medical job at Fort Bragg while doing the contract work for the CIA, according to a statement by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command.
Passaro's attorney, Gerald Beaver, said he and Passaro were surprised because "it was my understanding that he would be allowed to surrender if there were any indictments."
People who know him say Passaro has a history of aggressive behavior.
A spokeswoman for the Hartford Police Department, Nancy Mulroy, said Passaro graduated in 1990 from the city's police academy but was relieved of duty after he was arrested by state police before completing his probationary period.
Though arrested on felony assault charges in the case, he was convicted in July 1991 of breach of peace, state police said. He paid a $100 fine.
Passaro's ex-wife, Kerry Passaro, said her husband had assaulted a neighbor.
"He was violent toward me throughout the marriage," she told North Carolina television stations.
North Carolina records show David and Kerry Passaro were divorced in February 2001, and that Passaro remarried in March 2002. Since he remarried, Harnett County deputy sheriffs had been called to the rural house twice to investigate domestic fights and again to look into a complaint that Passaro fired a gun at a neighbor's dog.
If convicted, Passaro faces up to 40 years in prison and a $1 million fine. He was ordered held without bond after an initial appearance before a federal magistrate in Raleigh and will have a detention hearing Tuesday.
A former Green Beret medic and Army ranger, Passaro began his contract with the CIA in December 2002. He arrived at the Afghan base in mid-May 2003, a few weeks before the alleged abuse occurred, U.S. officials said.