U.S. Officials Challenge Serbian Safehaven

Serbian Consul General Slobodan Nenadovic has reportedly been fired, according to U.S. officials with knowledge of the dispute. A man who answered the phone at the consulate general's office said he was not authorized to speak about the Kovacevic case but confirmed that both Milosevic and Nenadovic had returned to Serbia. Nenadovic had also contacted Rochman, the Steinhauers' attorney, to offer his regrets about the beating victim.

New York Sen. Charles Schumer, who has spearheaded a group of New York lawmakers working with American diplomats to urge Serbian officials to return Kovacevic, called Nenadovic's firing "a clear sign" that the Serbian government is taking the issue seriously.

Given Munter's formal request for the suspect's return, Schumer said he will not be satisfied until Kovacevic is back in the United States.

"Now the Serbian government has no excuse," Schumer said in a statement Tuesday night. "The paperwork has arrived, and we expect them to do everything they can to return Mr. Kovacevic to the United States so justice can be done."

Schumer spoke directly to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and FBI Director Robert Mueller about Steinhauer's case this week, a spokesman from the senator's office confirmed to ABC News. He also appealed to Attorney General Michael Mukasey about what he called "despicable" actions by some Serbian officials.

Fellow U.S. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton added that it was "unconscionable" that a foreign government official would help Kovacevic's flight.

Kovacevic's parents, an orthopedic surgeon and psychiatrist who live on a ranch in Kula, a 40,000-resident city north of Belgrade, have told reporters from American media outlets that they fear their son could not get a fair trial in New York because of a "media circus" that would bias the proceedings against him.

"We feel he is a victim of small-town values ganging up against a foreigner," Peter Kovacevic, the suspect's father, told the New York Post. "He was targeted because he was Serb and a very large man." His mother, Branka, was hospitalized when she learned Munter, the ambassador, wanted her son's return.

Kovacevic, nicknamed "Minja," arrived at Binghamton's basketball program from a Virginia prep school in 2006 as a highly touted recruit -- one of two 6 feet, 9 inch Serbians to join the Division I squad that year, according to an athletic department press release at the time.

Rochman, the Steinhauer family attorney, acknowledged that there are legal questions about extraditions involving the two countries that can only be answered by the respective governments. Under his interpretation of the treaty between the two countries, he said, Serbian officials are not obligated to extradite Kovacevic, but there is nothing preventing them from doing so.

In the meantime, the Steinhauer family watches as the 22-year-old's condition improves slightly. "This is a young man with the brightest of futures," Rochman said. "What I'm interested in is getting this thug back to the United States so he can face American justice."

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