Gracie: O Criador de uma Dinastia
Rio de Janeiro: Record, 2008
by Roberto Pedreira
May 31, 2013
Chapter 14. O Indulto
Carlos, Helio, and George
were sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for their ambush attack on Manoel Rufino
dos Santos. There was never any question that they did the crime, but they
didn't want to do the time. They hired a good lawyer. But the case was open and
shut. There were witnesses. The brothers fled the scene, along with their
supporters (and Oswaldo, who had been waiting in the car), indicating that they knew what they had
They also ran away when the
police went to their academy to arrest them.
president, Getulio Vargas, granted them a pardon. But the brothers' lawyer told
them that the president had said that in order for him to pardon them, they had
to first be arrested. Knowing that they wouldn't have to do hard time, they turned
Vargas was responding to a
petition set in motion by an influential person, who happened to be a Gracie
student. It is unknown whether Carlos dropped a hint or two, but it is not out
of the question.
Rufino said publicly and
often that their jiu-jitsu versus capoeriagem challenge was bogus. He had every
right to voice his opinion. That wasn't
illegal. It was, to some degree, not even false [the capoeira
"representatives" had been taught by someone with no capoeiragem
background and who was a friend and business associate of the Gracies,
namely, Jayme Ferreira]. But even if saying that the
alleged challenge match was "a bluff" (as he expressed it) there were legal ways to deal
with it. For some reason (which Reila confesses she can't explain), Carlos
decided to gather his brothers (Helio and George and Oswaldo) and in case four
on one wasn't advantageous enough, some miscellaneous supporters. And to ambush
him at night in front of the Tijuca Tenis Clube. Helio later conceded that the attack was
not the smartest thing he ever did. (see the
famous Playboy interview.)
Reila reproduces the
petition to Vargas requesting the pardon, which offers several reasons why the
brothers should walk (they were already in the House of Detention). They included: (2)
the brothers are of good moral quality and come from a good family composed
of an elderly mother, three unmarried sisters, and in Carlos' case a wife and
son, Eduardinho; (3) their wrestling career makes them legitimate national glories, and
George and Helio, in addition, are just boys; (4) they are teachers of
the secrets of jiu-jitsu, to the public and to the Policia Especial;1 (5)
Rufino's injuries are not as serious as the doctors testified. And (6) 21 months
in prison would disrupt their lives and training routines.
It worked. They got off,
basically scot-free. They did have to spend a week in the House of Detention.
That had an unexpected side effect. His experience with the other prisoners made
Carlos curious about their motivations. He wanted to decipher the reasons behind
criminal behavior. This impulse to investigate human behavior led him, in the
1950's, to visit asylums to try to understand the causes of mental illness.
Chapter 15. Livres para Lutar.
1. They were quickly
terminated from that job however.
Interestingly, as Reila will describe later, the episode may have had the
unfortunate consequence of convincing Carlos and Helio that they could basically
talk their way out of all and any criminal or other highly dubious conduct.
(c) 2013, Roberto Pedreira. All rights reserved.