“Each one knows the role they took in the fight, and you have to take charge.”
Twenty-year-old Lucas Pertossi said these words, shortly after the attack outside the Le Brique nightclub in Villa Gesell on Saturday, January 18, which left 19-year-old Fernando Báez Sosa dead. Pertossi and nine others were involved in the brutal assault.
Although the youngster's words weren’t initially notable, now it seems they contain a hidden sentiment. Until now, the group of rugby players – identified today in the local press as 'los rugbiers' – have all been defended by the same lawyer, Hugo Tomei, as they face charges of aggravated homicide with malicious intent.
However, as the days pass and witnesses contribute new testimony to investigators, seven of the of the youngsters have now been formally identified as part of the attack, while at least five witnesses point to Máximo Thomsen, 20, as the author of the crime.
Pact of silence?
In initial inquiries, all 10 members of the group decided not to testify (an 11th individual, 21-year-old Pablo Ventura, did speak, though he said he had nothing to do with the incident – evidence has proved him right). That tactic could now change based on witness testimony.
There are still two rounds of depositions to come, Not everyone, according to the witnesses, had the same role.
Five have claimed to have seen Thomsen kick Báez in the head, even though he was unconscious. Another member of the group, Ciro Pertossi, 19, is another in the spotlight. He was spotted fighting with Báez's friends so they would not be able to intervene, thus enabling the homicide. Enzo Comelli, 19, was seen inside the bowling alley starting the fight. He threw the first punches at Baez later in the street. Two other witnesses have said that Matías Benicelli, 20, cheered on the attack. Another three members of the group are believed to have either chased or hit the victim, or encouraging it.
One judicial spokesman told Perfil this weekend that the players should change their strategy and each hire their own lawyer. “Not everyone has the same level of participation and, if they continue this [pact of] silence, those less involved will be implicated. They didn’t point everyone out, but they’re all locked up for the same crime,” said the spokesman.
This is where Pertossi’s statement asks the question: Will each own up and reveal their individual role in the attack, or will they all stick together? One thing remains clear: they will be behind bars for some time to come. “There is no chance of being released,” Báez family lawyer Fabián Améndola told Perfil.
It remains to be seen whether those yet to appear before prosecutors — Juan Guarino, Blas Cinali, Lucas Pertossi — will remain silent. For now, Ciro Pertossi and Thomsen have been charged as co-authors of the murder, while the other eight are accessories to the crime. With these charges, all could face life in prison.
“It is the only possible penalty,” said high-profile lawyer Fernando Burlando, who has also joined the family's legal team, according to Perfil. He said the rugby players should “they spend their whole lives in prison. No lawyer will be able to help them and problems will start when they have to sacrifice themselves as time goes by. Each one will try to save himself and, thus, it will be difficult for them to all keep the same lawyer.”
Thomsen's mother resigned
Meanwhile, architect Rosalía Zárate, the mother of Máximo Thomsen, has resigned her position with the local government in Zárate, where she had been serving as secretary of public works. She submitted her resignation Friday after previously requesting a leave of absence. The municipality's interim mayor, Ariel Ríos, has accepted the request. "She is not physically or mentally able to continue with her job," sources in the local government told Perfil.
In recent days, the parents of the detainees visited their children at the police stations where they are currently locked up. One parent's father told reporters they were living "a nightmare."
The group have all been in jail since Saturday, January 18, and, after 15 days in prison, an extension of a further 15 days can be requested. Then prosecutors have to decide whether to ask for them to be remanding in custody until trial, or released from prison.