OVER 200 POLICE,
AND THOUSANDS OF PROTESTERS
In 2013, Neringa Venckiene, a Lithuanian Member of Parliament and former judge, fled Lithuania with her 13-year-old son in fear for her life. She applied for political asylum in the U.S.
In 2018, after learning that American authorities were seeking her arrest for extradition by the request of the Lithuanian Government, judge Venckiene turned herself in and has been detained ever since. The State Department authorized her extradition despite not hearing her asylum case. US judges who heard her appeal agreed that the charges against her appear political, but the extradition treaty binds their hands.
Bills before congress seek to stay her extradition until her asylum case could be heard, but they've been stuck in committee and most likely won't pass in time to help her.
She could be extradited at any moment.
UPDATE: Judge Venckiene was extradited to Lithuania on November 6th, 2019.
In 2008, Judge Neringa's 4-year-old niece, Deimante, testified that she had been sexually abused while in her biological mother's care. Her father Drąsius Kedys had full custody at the time (with visitation rights for the mother), and tried for over a year to bring the case to the police and file charges, but his pleas were ignored.
In 2009, frustrated with the lack of progress in the investigation, Drąsius sent out more than 200 DVDs to Lithuanian authorities, politicians and media outlets with his daughter's testimony.
Several court-ordered psychological evaluations concluded that Deimante's testimony was credible. She named Andrius Usas, (an Advisor to the Speaker of Parliament), judge Jonas Furmanavicius, and a third individual only know as "Aidas" as her abusers.
On October 5th, 2009 judge Furmanavicius and the mother's sister Naruseviciene were shot dead in their car, and Drąsius went missing. The Lithuanian authorities announced an international search for him as the only suspect in the murders. Drąsius's friend Raimundas Ivanauskas was sentenced to 8 years in prison for accessory to murder in 2016, despite being blind.
While Drąsius was missing, his sister judge Neringa Venckiene took custody of Deimante.
In 2010, after six months of police search, Drąsius Kedys' body was found in Kaunas, Lithuania. According to the official report, the cause of death was "choking on the vomit" whilst being heavily intoxicated, despite being found face down and with numerous mysterious injuries. Independent criminologists believed that Drasius was murdered. On April 24th, he was buried in Garliava, his funeral was attended by thousands of Lithuanian citizens.
Andrius Usas, the main suspect in the pedophilia case and the only one to face charges, was found dead in June 2010. According to the Lithuania authorities, he fell off his all-terrain vehicle and drowned in a body of water that was only 8 inches deep. His death was ruled an accident. The court case against Usas continued after his death, and declared him innocent in November of 2012. By that point, four of the main witnesses were dead.
Deimante and her father Drąsius Kedys
CONTENT WARNING: Graphic description of sexual assault
"The subject of the study cannot understand the nature of the sexual relationship, that is characteristic of her age, but she understands that she was mistreated and molested. During the conversation, the subject of investigation is talking broadly and clearly about "uncle Usas'" behavior, showing with the pictures where he touched her and other things that he did with her (e.g., the bath where he threw her, the side from which he approached, and so on). "When he used to throw me to the bath, he used to say that I'm a "little fish", "he poured water, and then he licked and kissed me" (shows the bath and its plug in the picture). Later she tells how, "cream was running from his [pee-pee], and Usas was spreading the cream on her". According to the girl, "[...]Usas is very fat, and his belly is big...'' After the girl is asked what her mother did when she told her about that, she says, "mother tried to defend me by chasing him with a broom. But now she is telling to everyone at the kindergarten that it didn't happen and I made up this story."
Excerpt from Psychological Evaluation of Deimante Kedyte made by the Court's Psychologist, Rasa Mikailiene. April 15, 2009.
Image of Drasius Kedys' body. The official cause of death was declared "choking". No explanation was given for the many injuries on his body.
CUSTODY BATTLE FOR DEIMANTE
Deimante's mother was never indicted for her complicity in her daughter's sexual molestation, despite a Vilnius District Court Ruling in October 2009 that there was enough evidence to do so. And in May of 2010, Kedainiai Regional Court gave custody of Deimante back to her mother, despite investigations that were still continuing and Deimante's own testimony against her mother.
Outraged by this decision, thousands of Lithuanians surrounded Neringa's home and would not let the police pass and seize the girl. After continued protests and demonstrations, the court reversed its decision.
But in 2011, custody of Deimante was once again awarded to her mother, although the case had still not been resolved. The vigil outside Neringa's home started again. In March of 2012 the Lithuanian authorities attempted to take Deimante by force. Police surrounded the home, and her mother with her bodyguards attempted to pull Deimante away from her grandmother. Child Protective Services halted the seizure, stating that it was traumatizing Deimante, who was diagnosed with PTSD after the failed attempt.
THE POLICE RAID
On May 17th, 2012 at 6am, 240 Lithuanian police and special forces officers surrounded Neringa's house in the largest police operation in modern Lithuanian history.
The police shut down the roads leading to the home, and enforced a lockdown of a 2-mile perimeter, but there were more than 100 protesters surrounding the house. Police used rubber sticks, electric shock, police dogs and rubber bullets on the protesters, and arrested 39. The police broke down the door of the house, and turned off security cameras inside the home after getting inside.
The family members were dragged outside, and Deimante was pulled from her aunt Neringa. She was carried away screaming, and has not been seen in the last 7 years.
PROTESTS IN THE STREETS
The violent police operation caused massive dissatisfaction with the government in Lithuania. On the day of the raid, hundreds of people spontaneously showed up in front of the Presidential Palace to protest the operation. A few days later, thousands of protestors marched from the Parliament to the Presidential Palace, requesting resignation of the officials involved in taking Deimante. At the same time, a few hundred Lithuanian-Americans surrounded the car of the Lithuanian President, who was attending a NATO Summit in Chicago, and would not let her pass.
Just days after the protests, 5 charges were brought against Neringa, including disobeying a court order, resisting a police officer and "humiliating the court." After the Parliament agreed to remove her legal immunity, she resigned as a judge.
Neringa became the face of the new Way of Courage political party, which focused on judicial reform and fighting corruption. Their platform included more government transparency, stricter punishments for sexual assault and the introduction of trial by jury. Although the party had virtually no funding, it received almost 8% of the popular vote and Neringa and 6 party members were elected to Parliament.
As Neringa's popularity grew, so did the threats against her. She and her family received a steady stream of death threats. After a campaign event, Neringa found that her car had been tampered with so that it would crash if it reached sufficient speed.
In Parliament, the Way of Courage became the enemies of both the major liberal and conservative parties. They joined forces to remove Nerigna's parliamentary immunity in 2013, which would allow her to be prosecuted for the charges relating to the raid. On the day of the vote to remove her immunity, Neringa fled to the United States with her son and asked for political asylum.
DEIMANTE'S TESTIMONY IN THE CUSTODY CASE
“I don’t want to live with Laima…, I don’t want to live with Laima, because her friends were poking their sexual organs into my mouth, Laima was standing and looking… They wanted me to be silent and not to tell anybody, and if not they would hurt me with a knife. I want to live with Neringa, because she is very good to me. I want to live with Neringa very much. I don’t want to live with Laima… I don’t want to live with Laima, only with Neringa. They were poking their sexual organs to Orinta’s mouth as well, she was tied up… I want to live with Neringa”.
Recorded by bailiff Valdas Zubinas on January 9th, 2012.
Video of the first attempt to transfer the girl by force
Image of the girl being transferred to the biological mother
Video of the second attempt to transfer the girl
Protest in Vilnius on May 26, 2012
ASYLUM AND EXTRADITION
While Neringa sought asylum in the U.S. she was impeached and removed from Parliament. In her absence, Lithuanian prosecutors started adding new charges including "illegal surveillance", "slandering the dead" and "public statements to infringe on sovereignty of Lithuania". In total she was charged with 39 crimes. The prosecutors also brought various charges against Venckiene's parents, her neighbor, her party members, journalists, and her supporters.
In the United States, Neringa lived quietly out of the spotlight, opening a flower shop outside of Chicago.
In 2018, after receiving the request from the Lithuanian government to extradite Neringa, American authorities issued a warrant for her arrest. In February of 2018, after learning that U.S. officers were seeking her arrest, Neringa turned herself in. She has remained detained ever since, appealing the extradition.
Neringa's son Karolis testified before congress at the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, and helped get bills introduced to stop her extradition.
The first US judge to hear Neringa's case threw out most of the charges, saying they were non-extraditable and that Lithuanian prosecutors had to drop them. But 4 remained. Judges one the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed that the remaining charges appeared politically motivated, but because they didn't happen in an environment of violent revolution, they failed to meet the very specific criteria for disqualification, and the court's hands were tied by the extradition treaty.
In July, her appeal was denied. It looks increasingly likely that she'll be extradited back to Lithuania, without her being able to present her asylum case which is due to be heard in 2022. The Lithuanian prosecutor has already indicated they plan to violate the spirit of the extradition agreement by filing more charges against Neringa once she's back in Lithuania.
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
There's still a possibility that the State Department could reverse its decision to extradite if there was significant political pressure, but it's unlikely.
Congressional support could pull H.R. 1107 – the "Give Judge Venckiene Her Day in Court Act" – out of committee and get it on the president's desk. Call or email your congressperson to get their support: you can find out how on the "Take Action" page.
But if Neringa is extradited, our greatest hope is to make sure the world is watching how Lithuania decides to treat her. With international pressure, the Lithuanian government might reconsider their course of action against her.
Help us share her story and end this scandal.
JUDGE VENCKIENE'S RESIGNATION SPEECH
"I cannot be a part of such a system where justice is being declared, but not being sought and implemented to the highest extent, where corruption remains important stimulus to action, where a higher hierarchical position is reached via corrupted relationships or secret deals, but not through the quality of professional work. I cannot be a part of a system that does not serve truth, individuals, and homeland".
CAN YOU TRUST US?
We know how unbelievable this story can sound. And in today's world where wild conspiracy theories seem to run rampant, we think it's especially important to approach stories like this one with healthy skepticism and a critical eye.
This site was written primarily by Neringa's son, Karolis Venckus. It was sourced using material from Karolis's own testimony to congress, documentary interviews with Neringa, original legal documents, news coverage of the events, and the surprisingly thorough wikipedia page (special thanks to the editors who have kept Neringa's page updated over the years). It was edited by an independent journalist.
We've included links to original documents and outside coverage when possible. We hope to continue translating and adding more documents in the coming weeks.
Although we clearly have a strong perspective on this story, we've attempted to present the facts as they are generally agreed upon. If we find we've been inaccurate, we'll amend the site and note the correction publicly.
Neringa fought for transparency in government, and we hope to honor that fight in our work as well.