US disappointed by light sentence for Serbian accused in assault of NY student

The Obama administration says it's disappointed with a plea deal that will allow a Serb college basketball player charged with beating an American student into a coma to serve two years in prison in Serbia.

State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Wednesday the agreement provides too light a sentence for 23-year-old Miladin Kovacevic, who fled to Serbia after being arrested for the 2008 beating. Crowley said a longer jail sentence would be more appropriate.

"We have pressed hard with Serbia for justice in this case. We're disappointed in what we perceive to be a relatively light sentence," he said. "We do not necessarily believe that justice has been entirely served."

The plea deal, announced Tuesday in Belgrade, must still be approved by the court. Kovacevic is accused of repeatedly kicking 24-year-old Bryan Steinhauer in the chest and head after a barroom brawl in upstate New York. The beating left Steinhauer with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

Kovacevic was first charged in the United States. But he jumped bail and fled to Serbia, which refused to hand him over to the U.S., citing local laws banning extradition. The Serbian government eventually paid $900,000 to Steinhauer's family as part of an agreement that also called for putting Kovacevic on trial in Belgrade.