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New attorney for Cavalcante says he’s not doing the case for free

The Philadelphia area criminal defense attorney who now represents Danelo Cavalcante, the convicted murderer and former fugitive whose escape from Chester County Prison last summer made headlines across the country, declined on Tuesday to say who is footing his fees.

“I cannot get into who is paying my bills, but I will say that I am not pro bono,” attorney Lonny Fish said in a telephone interview, referring to the Latin term meaning that legal services are provided at no cost to the defendant. “I am not pro bono,” he reiterated.

Head and shoulders of Danelo Cavalcante in orange prison uniform

Danelo Cavalcante in Septermber 2023 after his recapture. (Courtesy of PENNSYLVANIA DEPARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS)

Fish entered his appearance on behalf of Cavalcante earlier this month, after having met with Cavalcante in late April and spoken to him through an interpreter in prison. Cavalcante is a native Brazilian, and speaks mostly Portuguese. Fish said he had been contacted about the matter by “somebody from his family,” meaning Cavalcante, but was not more specific.

Until Fish came into the case, Cavalcante had been represented at no cost to him by the Chester County Public Defender’s Office, both for the charges dealing with his escape from Chester County Prison and its aftermath, as well as the first-degree murder charges that led to his incarceration in April 2021. He brutally murdered his ex-girlfriend, Debra Brandao, in front of her two children at their home in Schuylkill after she threatened to expose his criminal past.

Fish, who has practiced law in the Philadelphia area since his graduation from Temple University School of Law in 2005 and maintains offices in both Philadelphia and Concord, south of West Chester, said he had only last week received the voluminous discovery in the case and had not yet determined whether he would take the case to trial. There are accusations of burglary, theft, and firearms violations involved, as well as the escape charge.

He declined to discuss what offer the state Attorney General’s Office, which is prosecuting the case, may have extended. “It would not be fair to speak to that,” he said.

However, Fish did suggest that he would lean toward a non-trial disposition of the case.

“I haven’t filed any (pre-trial) motions yet,” he said. “I was hoping to see if it could be resolved before I file any motions. But I don’t think this case needs to go to trial. My job, as a defense attorney, is to help people say they are sorry. And I think that the community wants this resolved without a trial, so that is what we are hoping for.”

He had appeared before Judge Allison Bell Royer, who is presiding over Cavalcante’s case, last week and asked that the matter be continued until her next trial term, in July.

Fish, while a “seasoned” attorney, as the website for his firm, Liberty Law Team, states, is not among the more prominent or recognized defense attorneys in the county. He said that he had opened his office outside West Chester relatively recently, but that he had lived in Chester Springs for a decade before moving to Delaware in 2019. He said he was active in county Republican Party politics, and was familiar with former Common Pleas Judge Lou Mincarelli, as well as Magisterial District Judge John Hipple of North Coventry.

In addition to Cavalcante, Fish’s recent clients include a woman who pleaded guilty Monday to shooting Cameron County District Attorney Paul Malizia county after a confrontation about a property transfer. The woman, Porice Diamond Mincy, was sentenced to four to eight years in state prison.

Malizia, who was wounded in the leg, was released from a hospital the day he was shot.

Coincidentally, Fish was named as a source in a news story last year about Cavalcante’s status as an undocumented immigrant and why he had not been deported after being arrested in Deborah Brandao’s murder. He told a reporter that keeping serious offenders in U.S. custody is meant as a deterrent, as it tells people they will serve their full sentence if they commit a crime.

In August, Cavalcante was sentenced to life in prison plus 2 1/2 to five years for the April 2021 of his girlfriend, Deborah Brandao, whom he stabbed dozens of times in front of her two young children outside their home in Schuylkill. The jury took less than 15 minutes before returning heir verdict.

He fled the area briefly after the attack, but was captured in Virginia and brought back to stand trial. He was housed at the county prison awaiting trial for more than two years.

Then, on Aug. 31, as he was awaiting transport to the state prison system to begin serving his mandatory life sentence, Cavalcante scaled an outside wall of the prison in a recreation yard. He made his way to the roof of the facility, and then escaped after a corrections officer failed to spot him. He was on the run for two weeks until he was captured by a tactical team of U.S. Marshals and Border Patrol officers in a wooded area off Prizer Road in South Coventry on Sept. 13, after eluding a massive manhunt.

Cavalcante is charged with escape, burglary, theft by unlawful taking, criminal trespass, receiving stolen property, unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, and firearms possession. He is currently housed SCI Green, the maximum security prison where he had been held since last fall.

Fish said he was unaware of reports that the broadcast streaming service Netflix is preparing a documentary about the escape and the manhunt that led to his recapture. “You’re the only person whose contacted me so far,” he told a MediaNews Group reporter Tuesday.

To contact staff writer Michael P. Rellahan call 610-696-1544.

Source: Berkshire mont

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