Pro-bono lawyer frees 17-year-old left to rot in jail after false testimonies

Portugal may have its “super judge” swooping on the corrupt left, right and centre, but it also has its share of “wonder lawyers” – the low-key law men and women who go out of their way to right wrongs. Ricardo Sá Fernandes is one of these. This week, he oversaw the release from jail of 17-year-old Leandro Monteiro, after proving that the latter’s conviction for child sex abuse had been fabricated.

What stands Fernandes out from the crowd is that he did not take the case to make money, headlines or anything else. He set out to right a wrong. A wrong that the courts were aware of, reveals national tabloid Correio da Manhã, days after the young man was sent to jail.

A psychologist produced a “damning report” saying that Monteiro simply did not fit the profile of an abuser and that his victims – a six-year-old and a 12-year-old – “must have lied”.

It then transpired that both victims did indeed withdraw their testimonies. But, for reasons unknown, Monteiro stayed behind bars – until the bespectacled man in a Trilby took up his case last month.

“Our objective was never to ask money from anyone,” Sá Fernandes told reporters as he left the courtroom that finally freed Monteiro with a ruling that CM said “carefully protected both judge and prosecutor”.

“What we want is that a case like this doesn’t happen again – and I am going to see to it that this young man gets the right support and a chance to retrieve his life.”

As Sá Fernandes explained, Monteiro had been institutionalised in Chaves after a “difficult life” and was improving his scholastic performance when “suddenly he was thrown into jail”.

The lawyer added that the two children who had spoken out against Monteiro needed “urgent support” as they had “invented everything”.

CM described the moment Monteiro was freed. Apparently, the judge’s final words were so carefully guarded that the boy still had no idea what was happening. He is reported to have “looked desperately” at his lawyers who rushed to hug him when, finally, the sentence had been read.

Police too were described as crying with emotion.

Sá Fernandes had stepped in to the drama after reading about it in CM.

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