The U.S. Department of Justice will waive the death penalty Craig Lang’s case, An Army veteran who fought with far-right paramilitary forces in Ukraine, the authorities accused him of killing a married couple in southwest Florida in April 2018.
U.S. officials and experts studying far-right extremism are paying close attention to the case. They are paying more and more attention to the Americans who went to Ukraine to train with far-right militant groups and gain combat experience.
On Monday, during an identity hearing in Fort Myers through Zoom, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jesus Casas for the Central District of Florida told the court that the government had decided to abandon the death penalty in order to expedite Lang’s extradition from Kiev, where he is currently Live under limited house arrest.
Ukraine is very sensitive to the issue of the death penalty and it abolished the death penalty in 2000. Lang and his lawyers have intervened in the European Court of Human Rights, which ordered the suspension of Lang’s extradition until it can review his case. An ECHR spokesperson did not specify when the review will be completed.
In a hearing on Monday, Casas stated that the US government will still demand the death penalty for Lang’s accomplice, Alex Zwiefelhofer, an army veteran who is also in eastern Ukraine. Fighting side by side with far-right extremists, he has been detained by the United States since 2019.
30-year-old Lang and 23-year-old Zwiefelhofer are accused of using false characters to lure Serafin “Danny” Lorenzo and Deana Lorenzo to a business center in Estero for a night meeting, the couple hope to buy guns from these people and resell them In order to obtain profit. Instead, Lang and Zwiefelhofer allegedly shot and killed Lorenzos in a dramatic way. attack, Made them wait to die, and stole $3,000.
Authorities said that after killing the couple, the former soldiers planned to use the money to flee to South America on a yacht, where they wanted to “participate in the armed conflict against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” and kill “communists”. However, the escape did not proceed as planned. Zweifelhof was later arrested in his hometown of Wisconsin and transferred to Florida, where he awaits a trial scheduled for December.Lang managed to return to Ukraine but was eventually detained Ukrainian authorities in August 2019, After returning from a short trip to Moldova. The border guards stopped him after seeing Interpol issued an arrest warrant.
In a text message, Dmytro Morhun, Lang’s chief lawyer in Ukraine, declined to comment on Monday’s new developments.
A relative of Lorenzos told BuzzFeed News on Monday that they are satisfied with this development. In April, the relative, who did not want to be named for security reasons, said that they did not want Lang to be sentenced to death; they just wanted him to return to Florida for trial. “We just want him to pay,” the relative said.
Bjorn Brunvand, Lang’s lawyer appointed by the U.S. court, told judge Sheri Polster Chappell that he had “asked” Lang’s possible extradition, but said that it is not yet known when Lang will be detained in the United States.
Given the uncertainty of Lang’s identity, Casas told Judge Chappell that the government is pursuing Zwiefelhofer’s case in a different way.
Lawyers for the government, Lang and Zwiefelhofer agreed that the pandemic has slowed their progress in gathering the items needed to prepare for the trial. Zwiefelhofer’s lawyer D. Todd Doss said that he needs more time to meet with witnesses and collect documents for his client’s defense.
Lang and Zwiefelhofer met for the first time in Ukraine, and in 2016 they joined the right-wing extremist organization Right Sector.Notorious for it Neo-Nazi members and alleged human rights violationsIt originated from the alliance of right-wing militant organizations formed during the Euromaidan uprising in Ukraine in 2014. After Russia annexed Crimea and triggered war in the Donbass region in eastern Ukraine, the right-wing sector later repositioned itself as a voluntary combat battalion.
Other Americans fighting in Ukraine Tell BuzzFeed News During the interview, Lang and Zwiefelhofer’s far-right views and behaviors became more and more radical during their stay in the country.
The two left Ukraine in 2017 after the fighting eased, and then tried to join forces in South Sudan. They did not succeed. Instead, they were detained and deported back to the United States. The authorities claimed that they would eventually regroup and plan an attack on Lorenzos in order to fund more foreign combat ventures.
Since then, Lang has either been kept in detention or under house arrest in Ukraine. He currently lives in Kiev with his fiance and their children and must wear an ankle monitor. He said at a court hearing attended by BuzzFeed News in February that he taught English courses to Ukrainians online to support his family.
In the same court hearing, Lang claimed that the US government also wanted to prosecute him for war crimes committed on the battlefield in Ukraine.
“Any separatist or Russian soldier I kill will be charged with murder,” he told the Ukrainian court. “You know, any soldier I might have captured will be charged with kidnapping.”