Assault Charges Filed Against Serbian Student in NY Attack

Kovacevic beat American student into a coma, prosecutors say

Tuesday, Mar 2, 2010  |  Updated 9:45 AM EDT
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Assault Charges Filed Against Serbian Student in NY Attack

Miladin Kovacevic, a Serbian basketball player, fled the United States after a bar brawl that left a fellow American college student hospitalized for months.

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Prosecutors have filed assault charges against a former Serbian college student who jumped bail in the U.S. after beating a fellow American student into a coma, a spokesman said Tuesday.

The 23-year-old Miladin Kovacevic has been charged in Serbia with inflicting “severe bodily harm with possible deadly consequences” when he beat Brian Steinhauer of Brooklyn in May 2008 in upstate New York, said the prosecution spokesman Tomo Zoric.

Kovacevic also is charged with obtaining and using a false passport to flee the United States after the fight in a bar near Binghamton University, which they both attended, Zoric said.

The case had strained relations between Washington and Belgrade because Serbia refused to extradite Kovacevic, saying its laws do not allow that. But the Serbian government has paid $900,000 to the Steinhauer family as part of an agreement to try Kovacevic here.

The 6-foot-9, 260-pound Kovacevic, who was playing basketball at Binghamton, has been accused of assaulting the 130-pound Steinhauer, repeatedly kicking him in the chest and head. Witnesses told police that the two men had exchanged harsh words after Steinhauer danced with the girlfriend of one of Kovacevic’s friends.

The beating left the 23-year-old Steinhauer with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

Kovacevic escaped U.S. prosecution with the help of two Serbian diplomats who gave him the false passport. The two have been charged in Serbia with abusing their positions, Zoric said.

Hillary Rodham Clinton intervened in the case, first as U.S. senator and later as secretary of state, as did U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer of New York, to make sure Kovacevic was prosecuted.

Kovacevic faces about 10 years in prison, if he’s convicted.

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