Serbian court probes attack on NY student

AP News
Posted: Dec 02, 2009 2:18 PM

A Serbian court heard video testimony on Wednesday from an American college student who was beaten into a coma in upstate New York last year by a Serb.

Belgrade's Municipal Court said a judge questioned Brian Steinhauer, 22, of Brooklyn, for about two hours about the bar brawl in May 2008 near upstate Binghamton University during which he was severely beaten, allegedly by fellow student Miladin Kovacevic. Steinhauer awoke from his coma in August, three months after the beating that left him with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

Steinhauer's testimony is part of pretrial hearings in the case against 23-year-old Kovacevic, who jumped bail in the U.S. after being accused in the brawl and fled to Serbia.

The case had strained relations between Washington and Belgrade because Serbia has refused to extradite Kovacevic to the U.S. The government says it has paid the Steinhauer family $900,000 (euro600,000) as part of a deal to prosecute Kovacevic in Serbia.

The 6-foot-9 (2.05-meter) , 260-pound (118 kg) Kovacevic was accused of assaulting the 130-pound (60 kg) Steinhauer in a Binghamton bar, 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.

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, to make sure Kovacevic was prosecuted.