Ex-NY college basketball player accused of beating NYC student to go on trial in Serbia

By Dusan Stojanovic, AP
Sunday, June 27, 2010

Serb to go on trial for attack on NY student

BELGRADE, Serbia — A former college basketball player from Serbia who jumped bail in the U.S. after allegedly beating an American student into a coma will go on trial in his native country on Monday.

The First Municipal Court in Belgrade said Sunday that 23-year-old Miladin Kovacevic is accused of inflicting “severe bodily harm with possible deadly consequences” on Bryan Steinhauer of Brooklyn in May 2008 in upstate New York. If convicted, Kovacevic faces a maximum eight-year prison sentence.

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

The case had strained relations between Washington and Belgrade because Serbia will not extradite Serbian citizens. But the Serbian government has paid $900,000 (€730,000) to the Steinhauer family as part of an agreement to try Kovacevic here.

The 260-pound (118-kilogram) Kovacevic has been accused of assaulting the 130-pound (59-kilogram) 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 24-year-old Steinhauer with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

Two New York men of Bosnian origin were sentenced in January in Binghamton to two years in prison each for taking part in the assault together with Kovacevic.

Kovacevic (koh-VAH’-cheh-vich) 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 and face the same trial as Kovacevic.

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.

(This version CORRECTS spelling of Bryan.)

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