By Jerry Markon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 6, 2008
A former State Department officer has a proposal for U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee: Before the judge sentences him on child pornography charges, he wants Lee to perform his wedding ceremony.
Lee is considering the highly unusual request, under which Gons Gutierrez Nachman, 42, would tie the knot with his 21-year-old Brazilian fiancee in the same Alexandria federal courtroom where he admitted having sex with three underage girls while posted overseas.
Prosecutors are not forever holding their peace.
"The government objects," they wrote the judge Wednesday. "The defendant's request, in the government's view, attempts to shift the focus away from the very serious criminal offenses for which he will be sentenced."
The proposed nuptials sprang from a hearing in Lee's court in April, when Nachman pleaded guilty to possessing child pornography and misusing his diplomatic passport. Nachman's attorneys startled courtroom observers by asking Lee to marry him and Ana Carolina Pereira Porcher, explaining that the Alexandria jail, where Nachman is being held, had refused to allow the ceremony.
Lee seemed skeptical but said he would consider it if the couple obtained a marriage license, according to lawyers who were present. On June 2, Nachman's attorneys wrote a follow-up letter to the judge. "The Court expressed its willingness to perform the wedding if Mr. Nachman and Ms. Porcher could obtain the appropriate authorization for a marriage license," they said.
The couple now had a license and wanted Lee to marry them "at the earliest convenient opportunity for the Court," the lawyers said. If the judge declined, they added, they'd at least like to use his courtroom.
Legal ethicists said the judge should have strenuously objected. "It would show very poor judgment for the court to perform this ceremony or even to entertain the possibility," said Stephen Gillers, a law professor at New York University. "He should have shot this down as soon as they asked. He's not there to perform weddings; he's there to send a man to jail."
"I suspect that in 232 years of American history," Gillers added, "it's never happened that a judge has performed a marriage ceremony for a defendant awaiting sentencing in a serious felony case in his own court."
Through a court spokeswoman, Lee declined to comment yesterday.
Stephen Stine, an attorney for Nachman, said the former diplomat's attorneys "are trying to facilitate his marriage legitimately before Judge Lee or another authorized officiant. The U.S. government has no standing to object to the marriage, which the Commonwealth of Virginia has authorized."
Porcher, a Brazilian citizen who lives in Maryland, could not be located yesterday to comment.
Nachman had been posted in Brazil and the Congo during his tenure as a Foreign Service officer, which began in 2003. Court documents say he had sexual relations in government-provided housing with a 17-year-old girl and 14-year-old girl in the Congo and with a 16-year-old girl in Brazil. He wrote about his encounters in a diary and filmed them. One seized tape was labeled "2004 Congo Sexual Adventures."
Nachman will be sentenced July 11, and federal guidelines call for a nine- to 11-year term, according to court records. Assistant U.S. Attorney Ronald L. Walutes wrote that he will seek a tougher term because "the defendant's abuse of his position could not be more shameful."
"The government objects to the defendant's repeated effort to involve this Court in facilitating his marriage in this Courthouse," wrote Walutes, who said Nachman was "misinformed" when he told Lee that the federal Bureau of Prisons would not allow him to be married in jail.
Traci Billingsley, a Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman, said inmates can wed in prison if the warden approves, there is no legal restriction and the ceremony poses no security threat.
But Nachman won't be walking down the aisle at the Alexandria Detention Center, where he has been held since February. "This has always been the policy," said Harry Covert, a spokesman for Sheriff Dana A. Lawhorne. "There has never been an exception."
Staff researcher Meg Smith contributed to this report.