US judge refuses to halt extradition of Lithuanian ex-judge - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

US judge refuses to halt extradition of Lithuanian ex-judge

By MICHAEL TARM
AP Legal Affairs Writer

CHICAGO (AP) - A former Lithuanian lawmaker appeared close to fainting in a Chicago federal courtroom Thursday as a judge refused to halt her extradition to her homeland, where she faces charges stemming from her claims about the existence of a ring of influential pedophiles.

Lawyers for Neringa Venckiene, 47, said they would immediately appeal the decision to the 7th U.S. District Court of Appeals. That likely means Venckiene won't be forced on a plane back to Lithuania for at least several weeks.

Venckiene was a central figure in a scandal that gripped and divided Lithuanians before she fled to Chicago in 2013 as prosecutors prepared charges. Also a former judge, Venckiene is viewed by some Lithuanians as a heroine for exposing a seedy criminal network, but others see her as a manipulator who fabricated the pedophilia claims.

As it became clear the ruling wasn't going her way Thursday in U.S. District Court, Venckiene - standing in orange jail garb - appeared near to collapsing and had to be helped to a seat. When the judge asked if she wanted a break, Venckiene said: "No, no." But the judge recessed for five minutes anyway, as Venckiene drank water and dabbed her face with a tissue.

Venckiene told The Associated Press in an interview from her high-rise jail in Chicago earlier this year that she feared shadowy figures she upset with her accusations about a pedophilia ring and corruption in Lithuania could kill her if she is extradited.

"The judge pretty much signed my mom's death sentence," her 19-year-old son, Karolis, told The Chicago Tribune on Thursday. He said he was convinced she couldn't get a fair trial in Lithuania and that judges would impose a tough sentence if she is found guilty.

The charges she faces in Lithuania include reporting a false crime; disobeying an order to relinquish custody of her 4-year-old niece, whom she alleges was one of the pedophile ring's victims; and hitting an officer as dozens of police pried the girl from her arms in a raid.

Judge Virginia Kendall spent nearly an hour reading her written 35-page ruling aloud in a case she portrayed as novel and complex. She said her power to halt or even delay an extradition after the U.S. State Department has already signed off on it - as it has in Venckiene's case - is limited.

Kendall accepted arguments by government attorneys that the U.S. is obliged to send Venckiene back to Lithuania in line with a bilateral extradition treaty, including to help ensure other countries extradite suspects wanted in the United States.

"It is ... vital to the very concept behind mutual legal assistance treaties ... to facilitate cooperation between nations in order to protect the sovereignty of each," Kendall said. She added that the "hardship" of extradition "is lessened by the fact that she still may defend herself before Lithuanian courts."

Venckiene said the charges are politically motivated and she has repeatedly warned she could be killed if sent back to Lithuania. But assessing whether either claim was plausible, Kendall said, was also entirely up to the State Department under U.S. law and it hadn't deemed the claims credible.

Venckiene had lived in the Chicago suburb of Crystal Lake with her son, and worked as a florist. She had documents allowing her to live and work legally in the U.S. but turned herself in in February after learning American authorities were seeking her arrest.

___

Follow Michael Tarm on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mtarm

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • National politicsPoliticsMore>>

  • Russian officials to meet suspected spy jailed in US

    Russian officials to meet suspected spy jailed in US

    Thursday, July 19 2018 4:00 AM EDT2018-07-19 08:00:56 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 4:07 AM EDT2018-07-19 08:07:27 GMT
    (AP Photo). In this photo taken on Sunday, April 21, 2013, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-right...(AP Photo). In this photo taken on Sunday, April 21, 2013, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-right...
    Russian Embassy officials are to meet with a Siberian gun rights activist jailed in Washington on charges of spying on the United States.More >>
    Russian Embassy officials are to meet with a Siberian gun rights activist jailed in Washington on charges of spying on the United States.More >>
  • FBI Director Wray says Russia continues to sow discord in US

    FBI Director Wray says Russia continues to sow discord in US

    Wednesday, July 18 2018 8:09 PM EDT2018-07-19 00:09:49 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 4:06 AM EDT2018-07-19 08:06:31 GMT
    (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File). FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2017, file photo, FBI Director Chris Wray speaks at his installation ceremony at the FBI Building in Washington. Wray is dismissing Russia President Vladimir Putin’s denial of election meddling. ...(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File). FILE - In this Sept. 28, 2017, file photo, FBI Director Chris Wray speaks at his installation ceremony at the FBI Building in Washington. Wray is dismissing Russia President Vladimir Putin’s denial of election meddling. ...
    FBI Director Christopher Wray is dismissing Russia President Vladimir Putin's denial of election meddling.More >>
    FBI Director Christopher Wray is dismissing Russia President Vladimir Putin's denial of election meddling.More >>
  • Amid harsh criticism, Trump tries a tougher tone on Russia

    Amid harsh criticism, Trump tries a tougher tone on Russia

    Thursday, July 19 2018 12:30 AM EDT2018-07-19 04:30:42 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 4:06 AM EDT2018-07-19 08:06:16 GMT
    (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais). President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during his meeting with members of his cabinet in Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Looking on is Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat...(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais). President Donald Trump gestures while speaking during his meeting with members of his cabinet in Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, July 18, 2018. Looking on is Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat...
    Trump takes a tougher tone on Russia, saying in an interview with CBS that he told Putin to stay out of America's elections.More >>
    Trump takes a tougher tone on Russia, saying in an interview with CBS that he told Putin to stay out of America's elections.More >>
  • NationalMore>>

  • Hawaii searches for safe spots for people to see lava

    Hawaii searches for safe spots for people to see lava

    Thursday, July 19 2018 1:20 AM EDT2018-07-19 05:20:43 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 3:58 AM EDT2018-07-19 07:58:24 GMT
    (AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File). FILE - This Sept. 8, 2014 file photo shows downtown Pahoa, Hawaii. The small, rural town of Pahoa is the gateway to the eruption pouring rivers of lava out of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Historic wooden buildings lining it...(AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File). FILE - This Sept. 8, 2014 file photo shows downtown Pahoa, Hawaii. The small, rural town of Pahoa is the gateway to the eruption pouring rivers of lava out of Hawaii's Kilauea volcano. Historic wooden buildings lining it...
    Authorities in Hawaii want to set up a site where the public can view lava erupting from Kilauea volcano.More >>
    Authorities in Hawaii want to set up a site where the public can view lava erupting from Kilauea volcano.More >>
  • Florida mayor apologizes for fight over 'Starry Night' home

    Florida mayor apologizes for fight over 'Starry Night' home

    Wednesday, July 18 2018 2:41 PM EDT2018-07-18 18:41:30 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 2:46 AM EDT2018-07-19 06:46:08 GMT
    (AP Photo/John Raoux). This Wednesday, July 18, 2018 photo shows the painted exterior of the home of Lubomir Jastrzebski and Nancy Memhauseer in Mount Dora, Fla. The Orlando Sentinel reports the Mount Dora City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday, July ...(AP Photo/John Raoux). This Wednesday, July 18, 2018 photo shows the painted exterior of the home of Lubomir Jastrzebski and Nancy Memhauseer in Mount Dora, Fla. The Orlando Sentinel reports the Mount Dora City Council unanimously agreed Tuesday, July ...
    A Florida mayor has apologized to a couple fined thousands of dollars for painting the exterior of their home with murals emulating a Vincent van Gogh masterpiece.More >>
    A Florida mayor has apologized to a couple fined thousands of dollars for painting the exterior of their home with murals emulating a Vincent van Gogh masterpiece.More >>
  • Ohio executes killer who stabbed man he met in bar in 1985

    Ohio executes killer who stabbed man he met in bar in 1985

    Wednesday, July 18 2018 12:10 AM EDT2018-07-18 04:10:15 GMT
    Thursday, July 19 2018 2:45 AM EDT2018-07-19 06:45:52 GMT
    (Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction via AP, File). FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows death row inmate Robert Van Hook, convicted of fatally strangling and stabbing David ...(Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction via AP, File). FILE – This undated file photo provided by the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction shows death row inmate Robert Van Hook, convicted of fatally strangling and stabbing David ...
    Ohio is set to execute a condemned killer for a three-decades-old fatal stabbing.More >>
    Ohio is set to execute a condemned killer for a three-decades-old fatal stabbing.More >>
Powered by Frankly