Amer­i­can judge re­fuses to halt ex­tra­di­tion of Lithua­nian ex-judge

Santa Fe New Mexican - - NATION & WORLD -

CHICAGO — A for­mer Lithua­nian law­maker ap­peared close to faint­ing in a Chicago fed­eral court­room Thurs­day as a judge re­fused to halt her ex­tra­di­tion to her home­land, where she faces charges stem­ming from her claims about the ex­is­tence of a ring of in­flu­en­tial pe­dophiles.

Lawyers for 47-year-old Neringa Venck­iene said they would im­me­di­ately ap­peal the de­ci­sion to the 7th U.S. District Court of Ap­peals. That likely means Venck­iene won’t be forced on a plane back to Lithua­nia for at least sev­eral weeks.

Venck­iene was a cen­tral fig­ure in a scan­dal that gripped and di­vided Lithua­ni­ans be­fore she fled to Chicago in 2013 as pros­e­cu­tors pre­pared charges. Also a for­mer judge, Venck­iene is viewed by some Lithua­ni­ans as a hero­ine for ex­pos­ing a seedy crim­i­nal net­work, but oth­ers see her as a ma­nip­u­la­tor who fab­ri­cated the pe­dophilia claims.

The charges Venck­iene faces in Lithua­nia in­clude re­port­ing a false crime; dis­obey­ing an or­der to re­lin­quish cus­tody of her 4-year-old niece, whom she al­leges was one of the pe­dophile ring’s vic­tims; and hit­ting an of­fi­cer as dozens of po­lice pried the girl from her arms in a raid.

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