Russians unlikely to succeed in bid for new Craver trial, attorneys say

Date: 2011-11-21

By Elizabeth Evans

The time-served sentences handed down to a former Carroll Township couple convicted in the death of their Russian-born adopted son have spurred Russian authorities to announce they will seek a new trial in Russia.

A York County jury on Sept. 16 found Michael Craver, 47, and Nanette Craver, 56, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, two counts of child endangerment and conspiracy to commit all three charges for the death of 7-year-old Nathaniel Craver.

Jurors acquitted the couple of first- and third-degree murder.

The Cravers adopted Nathaniel and his sister from a Russian orphanage when the twins were 18 months old.

Michael and Nanette Craver each spent 567 days in county prison awaiting trial and are now living

Nathaniel Craver

with friends in Jim Thorpe, Carbon County.

 

Russia's federal Investigative Committee issued a statement that officials there will seek an international arrest warrant for the Cravers and prove Nathaniel's death was brutal and premeditated, according to The Associated Press.

No authority: But an attorney with the Cravers' defense team said the couple is safe from Russian prosecution, as long as they don't travel to that country.

"I don't think (Russia) can have any jurisdiction over them," said Suzanne Smith, who represented Michael Craver. "I don't think any court in the United States would honor (such) an extradition warrant."

U.S. citizens are protected from double jeopardy laws, and the Cravers were already legally tried here, Smith said. Also, the Russians don't have jurisdiction in the case, despite the fact they appear to be arguing Nathaniel was a Russian citizen, she said.

"(Russian officials) are just saying, 'We're not happy with the result. We want to do it our way,'" Smith said. "Well, you don't get to do that. I don't know anyone who would recognize Russians' authority in this particular case. They don't really have any."

Ongoing issues: Smith said it appears Russian officials are ignoring ongoing problems in that country with children in orphanages.

"I think all of our experts agree that adopted children from Russia have a high rate of fetal alcohol syndrome and attention disorders," she said. "There's some level of neglect and abandonment going on over there ... and they don't want to address it."

District Attorney Tom Kearney said while he's no expert on international law he, too, suspects any attempt to extradite the Cravers to Russia would run into double jeopardy issues.

"The question of whether one was properly tried ... is in the eyes of the beholder," he said. "We certainly believe they were. We devoted substantial resources into the prosecution, and the jury made the call. ... And the judge seemed to think it was the right call."

Verdict 'just': At the couple's sentencing hearing Friday, Common Pleas Judge John S. Kennedy concurred with the jury's decision.

"It was an appropriate and just verdict," he said. "The physical evidence ... did not establish there was intentional infliction of injuries on Nathaniel. ... Certainly there was reasonable doubt presented."

That includes testimony from medical professionals who treated Nathaniel for a number of issues, including fetal alcohol syndrome, reactive-attachment disorder and apparent self-injury, both accidental and deliberate.

Kennedy sentenced each of the defendants to 16 months to four years in prison and ordered them to be time-served sentences because the Cravers have already served their minimum sentences.

He also ordered the Cravers spend to five years on probation, to run concurrently with the prison sentence. Since they've been given credit for time served, the Cravers will spend about 3-1/2 years on probation, which is being transferred to Carbon County.

The case: Nathaniel died at Hershey Medical Center on Aug. 25, 2009, after being removed from life support. He suffered more than 80 external injuries and died of complications due to traumatic brain injury.

Neither parent was in the room when Nathaniel hurt himself about 7 p.m. Aug. 19, 2009, according to the defense. The Cravers maintain they heard a loud noise and discovered the boy had struck his head, apparently on the family's pellet stove.

Nathaniel initially seemed not to be badly hurt, but at 4:30 the next morning the Cravers discovered he was in a coma and rushed him to the hospital, the defense said.

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