Aruba orders release of Gary Giordano
A U.S. businessman suspected in the August disappearance and presumed death of his traveling companion in Aruba must be released from jail next week and will be free to leave the island, a judge ruled Friday.
Gary Giordano, a 50-year-old employment agency owner from Gaithersburg, Md., is scheduled to be freed Tuesday without any conditions.
He has spent nearly four months in custody while investigators have sought more time to gather and evaluate evidence in the death of 35-year-old Robyn Gardner, of Frederick, Md.
Gardner is presumed dead, but her body has not been found.
Prosecutor Taco Stein said he has appealed the judge's decision.
"It's a setback," he said. "We feel that he is still a flight risk. ... The investigation is ongoing. We need him."
On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning," criminologist Casey Jordan also voiced reservations about Giordano's release.
"We assume he is going to come back to the United States and, yet, he is in trouble in a number of ways here in the U.S.," she said. "He has two ex-wives. He has support issues. He had filed a lawsuit here. He is in financial shambles. I think the greatest fear here is, what if does not return to the U.S.? What if he tries to flee to another foreign country? Then it would be hard to get him back and extradite him in case that evidence turns up in the future."
Stein said prosecutors need more time to analyze information from Giordano's laptop and iPad.
He said that if Giordano is freed and leaves Aruba, they would later request his extradition from the U.S. if they could find sufficient evidence to persuade a judge to order him rearrested.
"We are determined to get to the truth of this," Stein said.
Giordano cried when he heard the judge's ruling, which was issued during a private hearing, said his attorney, Chris Lejuez.
"He would not believe that after four months, someone is finally willing to give him the benefit of the doubt," Lejuez said.
Prosecutors said they still consider Giordano a suspect, but Lejuez said his client is innocent.
"The prosecution has conducted a large number of investigations, with nonrelevant results," he said. "It is time to give someone the benefit of the doubt, especially when nothing is found to concretely accuse him."
Giordano has maintained that Gardner was swept out to sea while snorkeling on August 2.
The prosecution has disclosed little of the evidence against Giordano but has said he was the beneficiary of a $1.5 million accidental death insurance policy he took out on Gardner before their trip.
Jordan said the prosecution is looking for hard evidence and assessing what they currently have of Giordano's personal effects.
On "The Early Show on Saturday Morning" she said, "The Aruban officials, the prosecutors are hoping (to find) the hard evidence. This is the problem: They do not have hard, direct evidence and not enough to make a homicide charge stick. They don't believe his story. They believe $1.5 million insurance policy that he took out on this woman he barely knew is circumstantial, but without a body, in theory, you could charge somebody without a body, but you would have to have direct evidence, an eyewitness, computer records, some kind of journal.
"They want more time to analyze his computer to see if there is any record, any journaling, anything that could directly link him to a homicide plot, and it doesn't look like they are going to get it, because they know he is text-savvy and think he has wiped out his hard drive, but if they could get some direct evidence they would charge him or extradite him back to face charges in the future."
In October, a judge had ruled that Giordano would remain in custody for 30 more days while prosecutors continued to investigate the case.
"I'm just going to ... hope the FBI has something on him," Gardner's boyfriend, Richard Forester of Rockville, Md., said Friday after hearing of the judge's ruling.
The FBI had searched Giordano's home in Maryland following his detention in Aruba. The FBI did not immediately comment Friday.
On the FBI's interest in the case, Jordan said, "The FBI has been working with the Aruban officials and they are very cooperative. All indications are if he comes back to the United States, this is not as bad as we may think. They can continue to look for Robyn's body. Any sort of evidence, blood evidence, witnesses, cameras, anything that could link him to this crime. And if they find that, they can get the United States to cooperate and extradite him back to Aruba to face charges. Again, him coming back to the United States as long as he stays here, is not so bad, we will know where he is. If he goes elsewhere, could be another Joran van der Sloot story."
Jordan was referring to Joran van der Sloot, the man who remains the prime suspect in American Natalee Holloway's 2005 disappearance on Aruba.
Van der Sloot will soon be put on trial in the killing of a Peruvian woman who died five years to the day after Holloway disappeared.
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