Prosecutors lose 3rd Serb case

Fifteen men in St. Petersburg have been accused of lying about their military service.

By KEVIN GRAHAM, Times Staff Writer
Published December 4, 2007

TAMPA - A third Serbian immigrant has walked away from trial without a jury conviction after the U.S. Attorney's Office failed to prove he lied on his green card application.

A federal jury found Strahinja Krsmanovic not guilty on Friday after a weeklong trial. Krsmanovic was the last Serbian immigrant to fight the charges in court.

In all, 15 men who now live in St. Petersburg were accused of lying about their involvement in the Vojska Republike Srpske, or the Army of the Serb Republic. Prosecutors said the men served in the Serbian military during a civil war from 1992 to 1995 that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.

The men knew about war crimes that transpired during the conflict, prosecutors said. None of them were charged with direct participation.

Krsmanovic became the second Serbian man to be acquitted at trial. The government dropped the charges against another man after two juries deadlocked. A fourth man, Ostoja Saric, had charges against him dropped in October, two weeks before his trial was to begin.

Not everyone, however, has walked away free. Boro Stojanovic admitted to lying on the immigration forms and pleaded guilty. He is scheduled to be sentenced Dec. 11 and is facing a maximum of five years in prison.

During Krsmanovic's trial, his defense attorney said that Krsmanovic never denied that he served in the Army of the Serb Republic.

Prosecutors said Krsmanovic wrote "none" on immigration forms when told to list any foreign military service. But the forms were written in English, which Krsmanovic doesn't speak or read. His attorney said that he would have answered the questions through a translator. He told jurors that their verdict should hinge on how Krsmanovic interpreted "foreign" military service.

That's because Krsmanovic served in the Army of the Serb Republic. To him, his attorney argued, that means he served in his own country's military, not a foreign one.

Kevin Graham can be reached at kgraham@sptimes.com or 813 226-3433.