The Associated Press
BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) - A lead prosecutor on Wednesday accused a television crime show host of attempting to have a federal judge assassinated, adding to allegations that he set up killings to boost his TV ratings.
Crime-show host Wallace Souza - a former policeman accused of setting up at least five killings - tried to have the judge killed in 2007, said Ronaldo Andrade, a prosecutor in Amazonas state.
Souza's lawyer Francisco Balieiro said his client had nothing to do with any assassination plan.
Souza - who has been charged with drug trafficking, gang formation and weapons possession, but not in any killings - denies all the accusations leveled against him.
Andrade and investigators also say Souza ordered the murders of at least five competing drug traffickers - and of then getting a crew from his "Canal Livre" crime show on the scene before police to get exclusive video.
Andrade said they now suspect Souza of trying to orchestrate the murder of federal judge Jaiza Fraxe in 2007 for her role in getting one of Souza's associates investigated and arrested. The assassination plot was not carried out.
According to Andrade, police suspect Souza of being involved in as many as 19 killings.
One of those killed was Souza's own gunman Luiz Joao Macedo, allegedly murdered for not agreeing to carry out the assassination of the judge, Andrade said.
Souza, who also works as a state congressman, remains free because of legislative immunity that prevents his arrest as long as he is a lawmaker. He is being investigated by a special task force, and state judicial authorities will decide whether the case goes forward.
Souza became a media personality after a career as a police officer that ended in disgrace, according to state police intelligence chief Thomaz Vasconcelos, who said the lawmaker was fired for involvement in scams involving fuel theft and pension fraud.
Souza denies those allegations, but says he was forced to leave the force in 1987 after being wrongly accused of involvement in a college entrance exam fraud scheme that he was investigating.
He started "Canal Livre" later on a local commercial station in Manaus, the capital of Brazil's largely lawless Amazonas state. It became extremely popular among Manaus' 1.7 million residents before going off the air late last year as police intensified their investigation.
The show featured Souza, in a studio,railing against rampant crime in the state, punctuated with often exclusive footage of arrests, crime scenes and drug seizures.
Souza said his reporters managed to get quickly to crime scenes using well-placed sources and constantly monitoring scanners for police radio dispatches. The show also posted workers at police stations, and at the Manaus morgue, where word often came first about newly discovered bodies.