Freed US man wins appeal in Aruba missing woman case

Gary Giordano
U.S. businessman Gary Giordano, center, is pictured shortly after being freed from police custody Monday. He is shown sitting in the back of an SUV driven away from an Aruban detention facility by local lawyer Chris Lejuez, and American lawyer Jose Baez, left, in Oranjestad, Aruba.Pedro Famous Diaz / AP
/ Source: NBC News and news services

A U.S. businessman who spent nearly four months in an Aruban jail before a judge ordered his release scored another legal victory Wednesday when an appeals court rejected a prosecution appeal to put him back in pretrial detention, his lawyer said Wednesday.

The three-judge appeals court on the Dutch Caribbean island upheld the lower court ruling that prosecutors had insufficient evidence to continue holding Gary Giordano as a suspect in the disappearance and presumed death of his traveling companion, Robyn Gardner, said defense attorney Chris Lejuez.

The ruling came hours after Giordano left the island. Prosecutors had said they intended to seek his extradition if they win their appeal. Under the Aruban system, prosecutors would have to bring the 50-year-old from Gaithersburg, Maryland, to trial if they hope to pursue a case against him.

"There is no more appeals," Lejuez said. "If they want him behind bars now they would have to start a court case against him ... They have to charge him and take his case to court and they have years to do that."

The defense attorney said he expects the case will go no further.

FILE -- This undated handout file photo, released by the Natalee Holloway Resource Center on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2011, shows Robyn Gardner, 35, of Frederick, Maryland. Gary V. Giordano is to be released by Tuesday evening on the order of a judge, who ruled authorities failed to justify continuing to hold him nearly four months since his companion, Robyn Gardner, vanished during their five-day excursion to the Dutch Caribbean island. (AP Photo/Natalee Holloway Resource Center)Anonymous / Natalee Holloway Resource Center

"The truth is, as I showed the judges today, there is no evidence whatsoever against him, nothing, zero," he said. "So, I don't think this case will go to court."

Prosecutors say they will continue the investigation and under Dutch law they have up to three years to continue to purse leads against Giordano and press charges, NBC News reported.

Aruban law allows pretrial detention while authorities investigate a crime, but it is subject to a judge's review and the threshold of evidence necessary to hold someone increases as times goes on. A judge ruled last week that prosecutors had not met the requirement and ordered the release of Giordano. He had been in custody since Aug. 5, three days after reporting to police that Gardner disappeared while snorkeling. Her body has not been found.

The case has been compared to that of Alabama teenager Natalee Holloway, who disappeared on Aruba in May 2005 on the last night of her high school graduation trip to the island. Her body was also never found and the prime suspect was detained for months before he was eventually released for lack of evidence.

Giordano was released from jail on Tuesday night and took the first flight to the U.S. He flew to Miami and then headed to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport in the company of his U.S. attorney, Jose Baez, who won an acquittal for Florida mother Casey Anthony in her murder trial earlier this year.