2020.03.03 12:00

After US extradition, Venckienė's case reaches court in Lithuania

BNS2020.03.03 12:00

Panevėžys Regional Court is on Monday starting hearing the case of Neringa Venckienė, a former Lithuanian judge and lawmaker who was extradited from the United States last year.

Jolita Gudelienė, the court's spokeswoman, told BNS that no requests to postpone the opening of the trial had been submitted as of Tuesday morning.

Read more: Moral panic of the decade: former judge's extradition rekindles 10-year-old story

The case will be heard by a panel of three judges: Valdas Meidus, Jolanta Rasčiuvienė and Valdas Ciesiūnas.

Venckienė was charged with refusing to obey a court order, resisting a police officer, hindering a bailiff, and hitting Laimute Stankūnaitė, the mother of her niece. Under the Lithuanian Criminal Code, she could face up to three years in prison if convicted.

The 48-year-old woman says the accusations are politically motivated.

The former judge fled to the United States in 2013 after the Seimas stripped her of immunity.

Venckienė was jailed in Chicago in March 2018 and extradited to Lithuania in November 2019. Nine of the original 13 charges were dropped following her extradition due to differences in the Lithuanian and US legal systems.

Venckienė was a central figure in the so-called Garliava story that started as a dispute over the custody of the daughter of her brother, Drąsius Kedys.

Jonas Furmanavičius, a Kaunas judge, was shot dead on his way to work on October 5, 2009 and Violeta Narusevičienė, Stankūnaitė's sister, was killed at her home on the same day. Prosecutors suspected Kedys, who lived in Garliava, a suburb of Lithuania's second largest city Kaunas, of committing the murders.

Kedys had accused Narusevičienė of subjecting his daughter to sexual abuse, and Furmanavičius and another man, Andrius Ūsas, of pedophilia. The latter was acquitted by all courts of pedophilia charges.

Kedys disappeared after the murders and was found dead in April 2010. Ūsas was later found dead, too. Law-enforcement said that deaths didn't involve violence.

The events fueled conspiracy theories in Lithuania.

After her brother died, Venckienė took care of her niece and defied court orders to hand her over to her mother, Stankūnaitė. The girl was eventually taken from her aunt's house in Garliava by police.

In the wake of the Garliava story, Venckienė and her supporters established a new political party, named Drąsos Kelias (The Way of Courage), and she won a seat in the Seimas.

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