ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A man who came to the U.S. as a refugee from war-torn Bosnia almost two decades ago will be deported for concealing a long criminal past in his home country, including the killing of an elderly Serbian neighbor, a federal judge said Thursday.
Zdenko Jakisa, 47, settled in Minnesota in 1998, obtaining permanent residency four years later. He apologized in court for withholding information when he first came to America, saying he felt at the time he had no choice.
"The reason I was lying was only to save my life and my wife's life," he told Judge Susan Richard Nelson. "I did not come here to hurt anyone, or do anything."
Nelson told Jakisa she was in no position to judge him for actions committed during the bloody breakup of Yugoslavia in the early '90s.
"I need to sentence you for the crime that you've been convicted of, which is misrepresenting important material matters on your immigration application," she said, issuing an order that he be removed from the United States.
As part of his plea, Jakisa agreed he was a Bosnian citizen and that he would surrender to U.S. immigration officials as early as Tuesday. It was not immediately clear when he would leave the country, but his attorney said he hoped it would be with days or weeks.
In Bosnia, Jakisa was convicted of various crimes including killing his neighbor by firing an AK-47 through her bedroom window. He was also convicted of assault, disturbing the peace and other criminal activities.
Jakisa and his wife, Anna, have been living in suburban Forest Lake, where they co-owned a taxi business. He has a lengthy criminal record in Minnesota, including multiple convictions for driving while impaired, disorderly conduct and obstructing legal process.
The judge attributed many of his recent troubles to mild mental illnesses, including post-traumatic stress disorder, and alcoholism, but said he had made progress toward getting better.
Authorities in Bosnia have said Jakisa is wanted for questioning in an investigation into war crimes there, but provided no details.
More than 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, which also turned half the country's population of 4.3 million into refugees.