July 11th, 2008
01:41 PM ET

Flight from justice?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/CRIME/07/10/serbian.student/art.kovacevic.interpol.jpg caption= "Miladin Kovacevic, 21, a university basketball player, fled the U.S. after being charged with assault. "]

Gabe Falcon
AC360° Writer

Tonight, Brian Steinhauer is in a coma and his alleged attacker is across the Atlantic, a fugitive from justice, and he may stay that way forever.

On the night of May 4th, Steinhauer was in a bar in upstate New York. So was fellow student Miladin Kovacevic, a towering 6-foot-9, 280 pound man who was recruited from Serbia to play basketball for Binghamton University.

Sometime that evening, Steinhauer asked a young woman who knew one of Kovacevic’s friends to dance. Police say Kovacevic responded with brutal force; attacking Steinhauer and repeatedly kicking him in the head until he lay motionless on the floor.

Kovacevic and two other men were arrested and charged with gang assault. Steinhauer suffered severe internal injuries and to this day, remains in critical condition.

Instead of awaiting trial, Kovacevic boarded a flight back home. According to officials, after his mother bailed him out of jail, a Serbian consulate staffer managed to give him a new passport even though Kovacevic surrendered his.

The suspect flew back to Serbia, a nation with no extradition treaty with the U.S.

Kovacevic ’s mother defends her son, saying he “is not running away from justice, he’s running away from injustice.”

Despite intense pressure and on-going negotiations, there is no international law forcing him back to America.

So whatever Kovacevic 's role, that leaves no chance of justice for Steinhauer, the college senior who authorities say did nothing more than ask a woman to a dance.

Hear exclusively from both families, how they found out, and their side of the story... get more info on this here

Filed under: Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. Ilhana, Bosnia

    He should answer for this crime, and defend himself if he can. Obey the law of the country you're in, or stay out of it! Such a shame that the embassy helped a fugitive!

    @ Chris: yes that's the country alright.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:40 am |
  2. Verdonna Spencer

    It's times like this when our president or any high official should intervene. Our national security system and borders are the least maintained in the world.But that's the way our system work,hopefully when weget this new president this will CHANGE. This guy's parents should have a heart and if not for nothing else come back to this country with their son to make him be responsible for what he has done.

    July 14, 2008 at 1:05 am |
  3. Carol

    I am a Serbian Orthodox woman living in California. I am very disturbed that this young Serbian man is able to remain in his homeland without consequences for his actions. When are the young going to take responsibility for their actions ? Money can buy you a ticket anywhere to escape justice. He has no soul .

    July 14, 2008 at 12:17 am |
  4. zelda

    Mommy needs to either go to jail and/or the remaining family needs to be deported........they can all lick their wounds together in their own country.If we let people in then we need to be able to punish them when they commit these henious crimes.Seems like an obvious green light for this crap.Where is our common sense??? Good gaaaaaaaaaaaaaawd!
    I don't feel safe here any more..........we are too stupid to be believed.

    July 13, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  5. Jesse

    Unfortunately, sometimes bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. He'll get away with it and that is life. Most stories do not have happy endings and this is most definately one of those stories.

    July 13, 2008 at 8:34 pm |
  6. Cris Rys

    No college scholarships, no green cards, no work visas for those that come from a country that does not have an extradition treaty with the United States.

    July 13, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  7. Julie

    I concur with the gentleman in the previous posting regarding the 'Bounty' on this guy. When we get him, and we will, we ought to bill the Serbian Consulate for the whole damned thing. When a young and promising life gets shot to hell, and made to drag through years of hope and hopelessness, because of an out-of-control freak from Serbia, 'We The People' DEMAND JUSTICE for this injured young man. Right now.

    July 13, 2008 at 8:06 pm |
  8. Jamil Black

    This country is going down hill. Too much weakness. When we can no longer punish criminals what hope is left. Here is a good way to make that scum bag come back. Put his mother in prison untill suspect turns himself in. If he does not return, just let her serve the time for him. If she assisted him in getting away then she is just as guilty.

    July 13, 2008 at 7:21 pm |
  9. Norm

    Most here are directing their anger in the wrong direction. Their ire should be directed at our government . It is so inept that after spending billions on "Homeland Security" it doesn't have the wit to set up a procedure to stop the actual person instead of the passport fleeing the country.

    I'd like to know under what circumstances the mother is here. Although the son hasn't been convicted of anything surely it's a crime to help someone charged with a crime to evade prosecution? If she isn't a citizen send her back to Serbia so she can be with her son.

    Here's a message for the US administration: Most countries around the world don't think much of or like the US. Means they won't co-operate unless it's in their interest..

    July 13, 2008 at 11:02 am |
  10. Mark

    It is a shame that our schools are recruting kids from other countries to play sports when there are many gifted kids right here in our country. We really need to set up new standards.

    Charges should be filed against the mother.

    July 13, 2008 at 9:14 am |
  11. Wendy

    It's not 100% clear in this short article, but those who are wondering how he left the country: he did surrender his passport as a condition of posting bond and obtaining pretrial release. However, the Serbian consulate issued him a new one. As for having a list of people who have surrendered their passports, I can't imagine this circumstance arises often. I suspect most arrestees who have surrendered their passports and obtain new ones to flee the country - well, I doubt many of them have the assistance of their home consulate and most probably use assumed names. In other words, while our border security system may have lots of problems, I don't see this as *their* failing.

    As for Serbia's responsibility, they obviously did wrong by giving the young man a new passport. However, in the absence of an extradition treaty, I'm not sure they can legally send him back to the U.S. (and we're a nation of laws, so we can hardly urge another country to ignore their own laws). But it sounds to me like Serbia is actually anxious to cooperate with the US on this matter, they're just legally hamstrung. From other sources, I understand Serbia has offered to prosecute the man for this crime *in Serbia*, though getting witnesses there, etc., could pose a real problem.

    July 13, 2008 at 8:12 am |
  12. Jerry

    ZORAN: "Well only someone who is realy stupid would challenge such a big guy like Kovacevic in first place, maybe victim should stay home and drink hot chocolate instead hang around and look for trouble."

    Where was it reported that Steinhauer challenged Kovacevic?

    July 13, 2008 at 1:23 am |
  13. Matt

    His mommy is back in Serbia-where they all live.

    Look it is simple-as long as we allow countries like Serbia to maintain embassies here-this type of crap will go on. They are a lawless nation, and if our Department of State had any balls, they would expel a bunch of their diplomats and send them packing back to Serbia-and lock up the person at their Embassy who aided this scumbag in escaping.
    Forget diplomatic immunity-lock him/her up-until they send the guy back.

    But, the bureau and marshal's service will be watching him-and as soon as he travels outside Serbia-to a country where we have strong diplomatic ties-he will be grabbed, brought here-and he will rot in a maximum security prison forever.

    July 13, 2008 at 1:14 am |
  14. Alan

    Hey, how about an eye for an eye. One of the victims family should go over there and show Miladin their displeasure and return here. The no extradition treaty works both ways doesn't it. If it was my relative I'd learn Serbian and hunt him down.

    July 12, 2008 at 10:55 pm |
  15. Jay

    Tom is right. The media is giving us a naive account of what happened... Obviously there is more to it than just asking a girl to dance. If you look at the picture of the victim, he has a gold earing and a wife beater on. Of course, you can't judge someone solely on appearances, but it gives me a clue that perhaps there is more to it.

    July 12, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  16. phil

    I would be surprised if this is his first assault.

    This beating was almost deadly.

    The person who gave him a fake passport should go to prison for 25 years to set an example. The parents should be lured over to the States somehow and thrown in jail for helping him flee justice.

    July 12, 2008 at 8:50 pm |
  17. dudespeaks

    I hope, God willing, Brian Steinhauer recovers from his coma.
    I believe that, in time, justice will eventually catch up to Miladin

    July 12, 2008 at 8:29 pm |
  18. S. Kwan

    Why isn't the mother in jail, instead of spreading her lies on CNN? Appalling. Seriously, why hasn't this woman been arrested yet?

    July 12, 2008 at 6:42 pm |
  19. Jennifer Walker

    Even IF Brian had done something more than ask a girl to dance – let's say, he was being verbally assaultive....does that justify being beaten to within an inch of your life? That boy could just as easily be dead instead of in critical condition. I fail to think of anything that would justify Miladon's actions.

    ARREST THE MOTHER!! (If she were an American, she would already be in jail. Who really is at the disadvantage?)

    July 12, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  20. chris

    the mother should be held as an accomplice , or used as bait to ensure this creep returns to face the music .

    as for the few peeps who say that the victim shouldnt have picked a fight with big guy , i sincerely hope these people experience being the victim at one time in
    thier life so they can finally come to terms with being hypocrates .

    also , fkae passort allows criminal to leave states on a plane , that should at the very least prompt disciplinary action against the security people who let him on that plane , dont you think?

    July 12, 2008 at 3:49 pm |
  21. Billy Bob Ray

    It's a bad thing, but the reality is that this happens all the time. Crime happens and it's committed by people that don't leave the country but they escape the law.

    Not sure why the press thinks this is so unigue. They must not read the news.

    July 12, 2008 at 3:48 pm |
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