Its been a couple of months since the events of the critical mass mow down in Brazil when a motorist ploughed into a group of cyclists enjoying a group ride through the streets of the Brazilian city of Porto Alegre.
Though, the driver, Ricardo José Neis, didn’t kill anyone, the story received widespread media coverage, with our own coverage helping to break the story this side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Granted habeas corpus release
So what has happened since that night of February 25. Mr Neis was eventually taken into custody, released after questioning and then rearrested again and put back into custody once he was charged for the offence of attempted murder (on 17 counts).
Despite this, Mr Neis has now been granted a release from custody under Brazilian law. His lawyers applied for habeas corpus (a legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention), arguing that there was no evidence that Mr Neis had threatened witnesses or victims or destroyed evidence. Holding him behind bars would have violated Brazil’s principles of presumption of innocence, they claimed.
Mr Neis has been a free man since April 8, but rather than keep his head down about the incident, he has been talking to the Brazilian media about that night and trying to justify his act of madness.
In an interview with Brazil’s Fantastico News TV Channel Mr Neis maintains that he was intimidated and attacked by participants in the Critical Mass, some of who he said had jumped on the bonnet of his car. Mr Neis claimed that he tried to pacify the situation and reason with the attackers. However, the attacks on his car (including a broken mirror) continued. At that moment, Mr Neis said he needed to get out of the situation and acted instinctively by putting his foot down on the accelerator for fear of his and his son’s life, who was travelling with him in the car that night.
Mr Neis said his actions were born out of panic and being afraid, and not revenge for being held up by the cyclists or the actions of participants around his car. However, he was keen to stress in the interview with Fantastico that the critical mass event was unjustified.
“I acted on the instinct to escape. You must agree with me that you cannot have a demonstration, or a march in the middle of traffic, right? I think it’s not appropriate.”
On the question of remorse, Mr Neis maintains that the he evaluated the situation correctly at the time before he decided to accelerate into the cyclists.
Mr Neis was the aggressor
Some of the cyclists involved in the incident paint a different picture to Mr Neis. They point to Mr Neis as being the aggressor with attempts to move the car forward several times.
A crowd of critical mass participants did gather around the car but only to reason with Mr Neis, but he was uncommunicative and would not speak, cyclist Ricardo Ambus told Portugal’s Globe newspaper.
The prosecutor in the case is currently considering appealing to Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court for the habeas corpus decision to be reversed with Mr Neis being put back in custody before his case comes to trial.