The US Department of Justice will waive the death penalty in The case of Craig Lang, An Army veteran who fought with a far-right paramilitary unit in Ukraine and is accused by authorities of killing a couple in southwest Florida in April 2018.
The case is being closely monitored by US officials and experts studying far-right extremism who have been increasingly concerned about Americans traveling to Ukraine to train with right-wing extremist groups and gain combat experience.
During a hearing held via Zoom at Fort Myers on Monday, Jesوسs Casas, the US assistant attorney general for Central District, Florida, told the court that the government had decided to waive the death penalty in hopes of speeding up the extradition of Lange from Kiev, where he is currently residing under limited house arrest.
Ukraine is sensitive about the death penalty case, which it overturned in 2000. Lang and his attorneys have brought in the European Court of Human Rights, which has ordered an end to Lang’s extradition so that it can review his case. A spokesman for the European Court of Human Rights did not say when the review would be completed.
During the hearing on Monday, Casas said the US government would continue to demand the execution of Lang’s partner, Alex Zweilerhofer, a fellow army veteran who also fought alongside far-right extremists in eastern Ukraine who has been in custody in the United States since 2019.
Lang, 30 and 23, Zweilerhofer, is accused of using a fake character to lure seraphine “Danny” Lorenzo and Diana Lorenzo to a nighttime meeting at a mall in Estero, where the couple hoped to buy and resell firearms from the men for profit. Instead, Lange and Zweifelhofer were alleged to have shot Lorenzos in a tragedy. attackHe left them to die and stole 3,000 dollars.
After killing the couple, the former soldiers planned to use the money to flee on a yacht to South America, where they wanted to “participate in an armed conflict against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” and kill “the communists,” the authorities claim. However, the escape did not go according to plan, and Zwiefelhofer was later arrested in his hometown of Wisconsin and transferred to Florida, where he awaits trial scheduled for December. Lang was able to return to Ukraine, but was eventually arrested By the Ukrainian authorities in August 2019After returning from a short trip to Moldova. Border guards stopped him after seeing an Interpol warrant for his arrest.
In a text message, Lang’s chief lawyer in Ukraine, Dmytro Morhon, declined to comment on the new project on Monday.
A relative of Lorenzos told BuzzFeed News Monday that they are happy with the development. In April, the relative, who requested anonymity out of fear for his safety, said he did not want the death penalty for Lang; They just want him back to Florida to stand trial. His relative said, “We just want him to pay.”
Bjorn Bronvand, the US court-appointed attorney for Lang, told Judge Sherry Bolster Chappelle that he had “inquired” about the possible extradition of Lange, but said it was still not known when, if ever, Lange would be held in the United States.
Given the uncertainty about Lang’s status, Casas told Judge Chappelle that the government is following the Seifelhofer case on a different path.
Government attorneys, Lang and Weifelhofer, agreed that the epidemic has slowed their progress in gathering things to prepare for the trial. Todd Doss, Ziffelhofer’s attorney, says he needs more time to travel to meet witnesses and collect documents to defend his client.
Lang and Zweifelhofer first met in Ukraine, where in 2016 they joined the right-wing group Right Sector. Notorious for Neo-Nazi Membership and Alleged Human Rights ViolationsIt arose out of a coalition of right-wing armed groups that formed during the European Maidan Uprising in Ukraine in 2014. The Right Sector later reorganized itself as a volunteer combat battalion after Russia annexed the Crimea and sparked a war in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine.
Other Americans who fought in Ukraine BuzzFeed News said In interviews by Lang and Zweifelhofer, they grew increasingly radical in their far-right views and behavior during their time in the country.
The two men left Ukraine in 2017 after the fighting subsided and then tried their luck in annexing troops in South Sudan. They were never able to achieve this and instead were detained and deported to the United States, where the authorities claimed that they would eventually regroup and plan their attack on Lorenzus in order to finance further foreign fighting adventures.
Since then, Lang has been either in a detention facility or under house arrest in Ukraine. He is currently living in Kiev with his fiancée and their young child and must wear the ankle monitor. He said at a court hearing attended by BuzzFeed News in February that he was teaching English lessons for Ukrainians online to support his family.
In the same court session, Lang claimed that the US government also wanted to prosecute him for alleged war crimes committed on Ukraine’s battlefields.
“Any separatist or Russian soldier who killed him would be a murder,” he told a Ukrainian court. “I understand that any soldier who has captured him will be charged with kidnapping.”