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

By Dusan Stojanovic, AP
Monday, June 28, 2010

Serb goes on trial for attack on NY student

BELGRADE, Serbia — A former college basketball player goes on trial Monday in Serbia for allegedly beating a fellow American student into a coma, two years after jumping bail in the U.S. and triggering a diplomatic conflict between Belgrade and Washington.

Miladin Kovacevic is accused of inflicting severe bodily harm with possible deadly consequences on Bryan Steinhauer in May 2008 in upstate New York. Kovacevic, 23, is also charged with obtaining a false passport to flee the United States after the fight in a bar near Binghamton University, which both men attended.

Kovacevic faces up to eight years in prison if convicted by the First Municipal Court in Belgrade.

The case strained U.S.-Serbian relations as Belgrade said it legally could not extradite one of its citizens to face trial in another country. But the Serbian government paid $900,000 (€730,000) to Steinhauer’s family as part of an agreement to try Kovacevic in Belgrade.

Kovacevic, who weighs 260 pounds (118 kilograms), is accused of repeatedly kicking the 130-pound (59-kilogram) Steinhauer in the chest and head. Witnesses told New York police the two had exchanged harsh words after Steinhauer danced with the girlfriend of one of Kovacevic’s friends.

The beating left the 24-year-old Steinhauer, of Brooklyn, New York, with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

A U.S. court sentenced another two men of Bosnian origin in January to two years each in prison for taking part in the assault.

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 will be prosecuted in 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.

will not be displayed