Former Binghamton University basketball player Miladin Kovacevic — who was serving a two-year prison sentence in Serbia for the assault of another BU student in 2008 that resulted in life-threatening injuries to the student — was freed Monday, about two months early.
His early release was part of a Serbian government amnesty affecting over 1,000 prisoners with lesser crimes.
Kovacevic, a Serb national, was sentenced by a Serb Court for attacking Bryan Steinhauer at the Rathskeller pub, leaving him in a three-month medically induced coma and with a severe brain injury.
Kovacevic managed to flee the U.S. in June 2008, thanks to fake Serbian travel documents from Serbian diplomats in New York, after posting $100,000 bail and spending four weeks in jail.
Serbia refused to extradite Kovacevic, angering Washington officials, including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former New York Senator Charles Schumer
The Serb government eventually paid $900,000 (€694,230) to Steinhauer’s family as part of an agreement that included putting Kovacevic on trial in Belgrade.
The Obama administration and Steinhauer’s family both called Kovacevic’s two-year sentence too lenient and New York prosecutors said they are still seeking his extradition.
Serbia’s pro-Western opposition, which lost power to nationalists in May, said Kovacevic’s early release sent a bad message to the U.S. and to other Serbian citizens.
“Because of his actions, the government had to pay nearly a million dollars instead of giving it to the poor,” said Democratic Party official Jelena Trivan.
The brawl in 2008 reportedly began when Steinhauer groped the girlfriend of one of Kovacevic’s friends. Steinhauer weighed about 130 pounds at the time of the attack, while the 20-year-old Kovacevic was a 6-foot-9, 260-pound sophomore. Kovacevic was summarily suspended and banned from BU in connection with the assault.
One student witness to the assault remembered that Steinhauer “was out after two hits but they kept hitting and kicking him.”
Kovacevic was recruited as a freshman by former head coach Al Walker for the 2006-07 season, in which he averaged 1.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in 9.3 minutes per game. Kovacevic did not play during the 2007-08 season because of injury. Kovacevic was not going to have his scholarship renewed for the 2008-09 basketball season.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.