Court sentences Serb to 2 years in NY beating case

A Belgrade court said Wednesday it will sentence a former Serb basketball player to about two years in jail for beating an American student into a coma.

Miladin Kovacevic, 23, pleaded guilty to beating fellow Binghamton University student Bryan Steinhauer during a barroom brawl in 2008. The assault, in upstate New York, left Steinhauer with skull fractures and a severe brain injury.

The court said Wednesday it had accepted the plea bargain between the defense and the prosecution and would sentence Kovacevic to two years and three months imprisonment. He has already spent about three months in U.S. and Serbian prisons, and will have to serve about two more years.

The Obama administration and Steinhauer's family have said they were disappointed with the plea deal and that the proposed sentence was too lenient. Kovacevic could have faced up to eight years in prison if he had gone on trial.

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 — straining relations with the U.S.

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.

Steinhauer has the right to appeal the plea bargain, the Belgrade court said.