Federal prosecutors say a judge can’t stay the extradition of an ex-Lithuanian judge and parliamentarian to face charges stemming from her public claims that there’s a ring of influential pedophiles in Lithuania.
A government filing Friday says Magistrate Judge Daniel Martin has no authority to halt Neringa Venckiene’s extradition after the State Department approved it, and that she’ll have opportunities to prove her innocence in Lithuania. She asked for the stay on Wednesday.
The 47-year-old recently told The Associated Press from a Chicago jail that she fled Lithuania in 2013 over fears she’ll be killed by those angered by her claims. She faces slander and other charges in the European country. She worked as a suburban Chicago florist before her February arrest.
The events that eventually landed her behind bars in Chicago enthralled and divided Lithuanians for years. They included several deaths under disputed circumstances and her election to parliament in 2012 on a wave of support for an anti-pedophilia party.
An April 23 letter from the State Department informed her lawyers that Under Secretary for Political Affairs Thomas Shannon decided to “authorize Ms. Venckiene’s surrender” under an extradition treaty. The letter, filed in federal court Wednesday, offered no details.
“This is very, very disturbing,” attorney Michael Monico said Thursday about that decision. “She is a totally harmless person.” Her legal team made an urgent request Wednesday for a U.S. judge to stay her extradition, and Monico said they were reviewing all their options.
Venckiene fled Lithuania with her then 13-year-old son as charges were drafted against her, including refusal to comply with court orders and slander for accusing several people of molesting kids. Her lawyers say her alleged crimes would be, at worst, misdemeanors in the U.S.
Legal options are strictly limited in extraditions, unlike in criminal cases when defendants can pursue appeals to higher courts for months or even years. The April 23 State Department letter warned Venckiene’s lawyers she “may be subject to surrender at any time hereafter.”
Martin will consider the motion at a May 1 hearing.