Former CIA contractor accused of beating Afghan detainee

The former CIA contractor accused of beating an Afghan detainee who later died has hired a private attorney to replace the federal public defenders who were handling his case. David Passaro, a former Special Forces soldier, said he hired Clint Rudisill of Fayetteville because he and the attorney share a similar military background. Rudisill, 48, is a reserve lieutenant colonel in the Air Force who has spent most of his military career with special operations forces.

He was part of the first wave into central Asia after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. He has taken the Passaro case pro bono. "Clint is from my neck of the woods," Passaro said in a phone interview with The Fayetteville Observer from the Wake County Jail, where he's being held on four counts of assault. "He is aggressive and has tenacity. He can't have the wool pulled over his eyes."

"There is a way we treat people who take risks for our country," Rudisill said. "I was trained to never leave my soldiers behind. The bottom line is, David is one of the good guys."

Passaro said he was not happy with the representation he received from federal public defenders. They neither contacted potential witnesses or forced prosecutors to turn over information to build a defense, he said.

"The other guys were more concerned with their working relationship with the prosecution," he said. Neither Passaro's previous attorneys nor federal prosecutors returned calls seeking comment, the newspaper reported.

Passaro, 38, who lives in Harnett County, is accused of beating Abdul Wali, a suspected terrorist, during two interrogation sessions at a U.S. base in Afghanistan in June 2003. Wali later died in custody. Passaro was the first civilian charged with mistreating a military detainee and the first American citizen charged under the Patriot Act. If convicted, he could be sentenced to 40 years in prison and fined up to $1 million.

The trial has been delayed several times, partially because of security concerns, and no date has been set, reports the AP. I.L.

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