Plea Deal Announced NY Student Beating Case

A plea bargain was announced late Monday in the trial of a Serb college basketball player charged with beating an American student into a coma before jumping bail in the U.S. and fleeing to his native Serbia.

Miladin Kovacevic is accused of inflicting severe bodily harm with possible deadly consequences on Bryan Steinhauer of Brooklyn, N.Y., after a barroom brawl in May 2008 near upstate Binghamton University.

A deputy prosecutor and the lawyer for the accused, 23-year-old Miladin Kovacevic, said they have reached an agreement for Kovacevic to plead guilty in exchange for an agreed prison sentence.

To take effect, the plea deal needs to be confirmed by the court, which said it will rule on Sept. 27.

Kovacevic was first prosecuted in the U.S. but he jumped bail and fled to his native Serbia, which refused to hand him over to the U.S. citing local laws which ban extradition.
The case had strained U.S.-Serbian relations. 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.
Schumer said the reported plea deal did not impose a tough enough sentence on Kovacevic.
"The punishment does not fit the crime," Schumer said in a statement e-mailed to The Associated Press. "This was a dastardly deed that almost killed Bryan Steinhauer. His injuries and suffering are worth more than two years."
The Serbian government paid $900,000 to Steinhauer's family as part of an agreement to try Kovacevic in Belgrade.
This trial already was postponed once before, in June.
Judges ordered a second delay on Monday after lawyer Borivoje Borovic filed a motion demanding that the court reject evidence provided from the U.S. Borovic argued that since Kovacevic was prosecuted in the U.S. as a juvenile, U.S. evidence cannot be used in Serbia where he was charged before regular courts.
Kovacevic, now 23, is additionally charged with obtaining the fake passport to flee the United States after the fight in a bar near Binghamton University.
He would have faced up to eight years in prison if convicted by the First Municipal Court in Belgrade.
Also on trial together with Kovacevic are two former Serbian diplomats, who are charged with abusing their positions when they provided false passport to Kovacevic.
An incident happened at the courthouse entrance on Monday, when a policeman's gun accidentally fired, slightly injuring two people, court officials said.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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