Serb sentenced for beating in US freed from jail

A former Serb college basketball player serving a two-year prison sentence for beating an American into a coma in New York state was freed Monday about two months early.

Miladin Kovacevic was sentenced by a Serb court for his barroom attack on fellow Binghamton University student Bryan Steinhauer of Brooklyn in 2008. His early release was part of a government amnesty affecting over 1,000 prisoners with lesser crimes.

After the brawl, Kovacevic jumped bail in the U.S. and fled to Serbia, which refused to extradite him, angering Washington.

The Serb government eventually paid $900,000 ((EURO)694,230) to Steinhauer's family as part of an agreement that also included putting Kovacevic on trial in Belgrade.

The Obama administration and Steinhauer's family both called Kovacevic's sentence too lenient and New York prosecutors said they are still seeking his extradition.

The assault left Steinhauer with skull fractures and a severe brain injury. Kovacevic managed to flee the U.S. thanks to fake Serbian travel documents from Serbian diplomats in New York.

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.

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