A U.S. federal judge Thursday refused to block the extradition of a former Lithuanian judge who fears for her life after uncovering what she said was a high-level child sex ring.
Neringa Venckiene, 47, fled to Chicago in 2013 and has been working as a florist. She turned herself in to federal agents in February.
At one point during Thursday’s hearing, Venckiene appeared to be on the verge of fainting and had to be helped to her chair. The judge recessed the proceedings for about 10 minutes.
Judge Virginia Kendall ruled that her authority to stop the extradition was limited because of the bilateral treaty the United States has with Lithuania. She said it was important to stick to the treaty in case the U.S. requests cooperation from the Vilnius government.
“The judge pretty much signed my mom’s death sentence,” Venckiene’s son Karolis said through tears Thursday. He said there is no way his mother will get a fair trial in Lithuania.
Venckiene told The Associated Press earlier this year that so-called shadowy figures upset over her allegations of a pedophilia ring and corruption could kill her if she were sent back. In Lithuania, some see her as a heroine for exposing a criminal network, but others see her as a manipulator who fabricated the pedophilia claims.
Venckiene is a former judge and member of parliament. She exposed high-level corruption and alleged child molestation in Lithuania.
Authorities there have charged her with reporting a false crime and failing to surrender her young niece to authorities, alleging the little girl was among those sexually abused. She is also charged with hitting policemen who tried to take the girl out of her arms.
Venckiene’s attorneys have appealed Kendall’s ruling and she will remain in Chicago for now. The attorneys said they will immediately appeal the ruling to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.