Russia Attacks Sentence of Adoptee’s Parents

Date: 2011-11-19

Russia Attacks Sentence of Adoptee’s Parents
Published: November 19, 2011

MOSCOW — The Russian government reacted furiously on Saturday to what it described as an unjustly lenient sentence in the case of a Pennsylvania couple who were originally charged with murder in the death of their 7-year-old son adopted from Russia.

The couple, Michael and Nanette Craver, were sentenced Friday to 16 months to four years in prison for involuntary manslaughter by Judge John S. Kennedy of the Court of Common Pleas in York, Pa. Because they had already spent nearly 19 months in jail, they will not serve any more time.

The Russian government was enraged. “The Cravers, who tortured the 7-year-old child to death, were released after staying a mere year and a half under arrest,” Alexander Lukashevich, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Saturday in a statement, according to the Interfax news service. “The court verdict is amazingly and flagrantly irresponsible.”

Russian officials said they were conducting their own investigation and might seek an arrest warrant for the couple.

The boy, Nathaniel Craver, died in 2009 from bleeding caused by a severe head injury. His adoptive parents said he had serious emotional and mental problems that had caused him to repeatedly hurt himself. They said the injury that caused his death occurred when he fell and hit his head on a wood stove.

Pennsylvania authorities said the parents had abused and neglected the boy. Expert witnesses testified that he had fetal alcohol syndrome, but it was not clear whether that played any role in his death.

A jury acquitted the Cravers of murder, but concluded they were negligent and responsible for the death. They were convicted in September of involuntary manslaughter and freed pending sentencing.

Judge Kennedy, in ordering that the couple serve no more jail time, said he did not believe that they posed a danger to the community, or that a stiffer sentence would serve as an example for others. He also said that given their ages — Mr. Craver is 47 and Mrs. Craver is 56 — he did not believe they would become parents again.

In 2003, the Cravers adopted Nathaniel, who was born Vanya Skorobogatov, along with his twin sister. The sister has been living with an aunt in the United States.

Prosecutors asked Judge Kennedy to order that the Cravers have no unsupervised contact with her until she turns 18, but the judge said he would leave such decisions to child welfare officials.

Mr. Lukashevich, the Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman, said the parents were directly responsible for the boy’s death. “They brutalized the child, brought him to exhaustion and inflicted a heavy head injury on him that proved to be fatal,” he said.

Russia is one of the largest sources of adopted foreign children in the United States, a relationship that came under scrutiny last year after a 7-year-old boy arrived alone at a Moscow airport after being sent back by his adoptive mother in Tennessee. She said she could not handle what she said were his severe emotional problems.

In July, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov, signed a bilateral agreement on adoptions that both sides said they hoped would ease tensions. The agreement, which must still be ratified by the Russian Parliament, provides safeguards including restrictions on agencies that can participate in the adoption of any child not going to relatives.


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