American judge refuses to halt extradition of Lithuanian ex-judge
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.