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Bar fight in upstate New York turns into international incident as Serbian suspect flees with help of a Serbian Diplomat

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06/30/2008 12:23 PM
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Bar fight in upstate New York turns into international incident as Serbian suspect flees with help of a Serbian Diplomat
[link to www.iht.com]

Bar fight in upstate New York turns into international incident as Serbian suspect flees

BINGHAMTON, New York: New York congressional leaders are asking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to pressure Serbia to return a 20-year-old college basketball player who fled after being charged with the violent assault of a classmate.

Sen. Charles Schumer demanded Friday that the Serbian government immediately help locate Miladin Kovacevic and return him to the United States or face possible sanctions.

"There are serious national and international implications to this case," Schumer said.

The 6-foot-9-inch (2.05-meter), 260-pound (118-kilogram) Kovacevic, who was recruited to play basketball for Binghamton University in upstate New York, was arrested after a May 4 fight at a downtown Binghamton bar that left Bryan Steinhauer near death. Steinhauer, 22, remains in critical condition and has not regained consciousness since the attack.

According to police, Kovacevic was at the bar with friends when Steinhauer danced with one of their girlfriends. Witnesses told police the men exchanged words before a fight ensued. Kovacevic is accused of repeatedly kicking Steinhauer in the head.

After several weeks in jail, Kovaceivc was released June 6 when his family posted $100,000 bail. He left the country on June 9.

As a condition of his release, Kovacevic surrendered his passport, but according to Schumer, Serbian Deputy Consul Igor Milosevic reportedly furnished Kovacevic with travel documents. Schumer has asked Rice to revoke Milosevic's diplomatic immunity so he, too, can be prosecuted.

Kovacevic's family, in an interview with The New York Post, said they helped their son flee because the "media circus" here unfairly targeted him.

Kovacevic was "a victim of small-town values ganging up against a foreigner. He was targeted because he was a Serb and a very large man," said his father Peter Kovacevic.

Kovacevic's parents said he also has a Croatian passport that he used to return home and no special arrangements were made.

The Consulate General issued a statement Thursday saying it was never their "intention that Mr. Kovacevic flee the country," but did not mention Milosevic or whether he played role in issuing a passport.

The FBI and Interpol have issued warrants for Kovacevic's arrest.
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06/30/2008 12:26 PM
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Re: Bar fight in upstate New York turns into international incident as Serbian suspect flees with help of a Serbian Diplomat
[link to www.nydailynews.com]

Binghamton University student at heart of Miladin Kovacevic's attack


Friday, June 27th 2008, 9:10 PM

[photos there at url]

It was the wee hours of Sunday morning at the Rathskeller, a popular hangout for Binghamton college kids, and pretty Melissa Cartagena felt an unwelcome hand on her body.

It was just a grope - but it was late, the guys were drunk and soon things got out of hand.

The scene was a birthday party with a Studio 54 theme, the dance floor was full, graduation was two weeks off.

Among the many revelers was Bryan Steinhauer, a senior honors student with a slight build and a bright future.

Miladin Kovacevic was there, too. The sophomore basketball player, a burly 6-foot-9 and 260 pounds, towered above Steinhauer and the rest of the crowd. The jock and the aspiring accountant traveled in different campus circles - but they found themselves in an uncomfortably small space inside the bar on State St.

Ann Pesahovitz and Lauren Levy, standing just off the dance floor, noticed the mismatched duo. A baby blue shirt covered Steinhauer's 135-pound physique. He stood a full foot shorter than Kovacevic, who was dressed in black.

It was about 1:20 a.m. on May 4. There was a commotion and "a lot of yelling," Levy recalled, apparently after someone groped Cartagena - a pretty Binghamton University sophomore with Kovacevic's group.

The dark-haired beauty wasn't there with the ballplayer; she was with boyfriend, Sanel Softic, a 21-year-old wanna-be state trooper who claims he never laid a hand on the victim.

Kovacevic took it upon himself to defend her honor - though it was not clear who groped Cartagena. Seconds later, Steinhauer wasn't standing; then he wasn't getting up. The bespectacled senior was battered to the dance floor. Witnesses recalled the big man's foot thudding into the smaller student's torso. And then his head.

Over and over.

Steinhauer - his cheeks shattered, his skull fractured, his brain swelling - was defenseless, his body motionless.

Pesahovitz said the violence ended as abruptly as it began. "He just stopped kicking the victim," she told police, "and left."

Steinhauer's limp body was carried from the bar to an ambulance bound for Wilson Hospital.

Nearly two months after the attack, the 22-year-old known to his Brooklyn friends as Waldo remains in a coma - his promising future in suspended animation. Friends miss the Stuyvesant High School grad's honest advice and upbeat personality, and note he was not a fighter. "An amazing kid," said pal Melinda Krawitz. "Intelligent, hardworking."

Kovacevic, whose high and wide profile made him easy to identify, was arrested 11 hours later, police said. He was locked up on a felony assault charge in the Broome County jail.