(Zachary Abate, World, April 11, 2011, Link)
Ex-Gov. Kaine, running for Senate, questioned over attempted extradition of German murderer
Only a day after announcing his candidacy for a 2012 Senate seat, former Gov. Tim Kaine was facing questions about his controversial attempt to send a former German diplomat’s son to Germany after he was convicted of murdering two people in Virginia. Just days before leaving the governor’s office in January of 2010, Kaine asked the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, to transfer Jens Soering to Germany where he would be eligible for parole after two years.
"I didn't believe it would be popular, but I thought it would be the right thing to do,” Kaine told reporters at a press conference.
In 1990, Jens Soering was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for the 1985 deaths of his girlfriend’s parents, Derek and Nancy Haysom.
Soering had fled to Europe soon after the murders with his girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom, an accessory to the crime, but they were both apprehended in London and returned to the United States. Soering is serving two life sentences at the Buckingham Correctional Center in Dillwyn, Va. while his former girlfriend is serving 90 years at the Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women in Troy, Va.
During his time as governor, Kaine rejected Germany’s initial request to transfer Soering back to his homeland, but, when Germany promised that Soering would spend time in prison, Kaine reconsidered.
"I basically said, 'Look, Virginia taxpayers have borne the cost of this German citizen's incarceration for 20-plus years.' I thought it was time for German citizens to bear the cost of his incarceration," Kaine said.
When newly-elected Gov. Bob McDonnell took office, he swiftly rescinded Kaine’s request. Shortly afterwards, Holder announced that the U.S. Justice Department would not consider sending Soering to Germany without clear approval from Virginia.
Kaine is currently the only Democrat running for the Senate seat that will be vacated by Sen. Jim Webb in 2012. The seat could prove pivotal for Democrats looking to protect their Senate majority during the next election. Republican George Allen and Richmond tea party activist Jamie Radtke are the other two candidates in the race.
The Soering case began in 1985 when Soering and Elizabeth Haysom, honor students at the University of Virginia and young lovers, plotted to kill Haysom’s parents. During the 1990 trial, Elizabeth Haysom testified that she prepared alibis for the two, while Soering committed the crime. Derek Haysom, a 72-year-old retired steel industry executive, and his 55-year-old wife, Nancy, were found stabbed and hacked to death in their Lynchburg home.
Now-retired Bedford County sheriff, Carl Wells, told The Roanoke Times, “It was about as bad a crime scene as you'd want to look at.” Derek Haysom had been stabbed 39 times, and Nancy had been stabbed eight times.
Soering and Elizabeth Haysom fled to Europe, but were arrested in London where both confessed to the killings. Soering later claimed that he only confessed to spare his girlfriend and because he incorrectly believed he would be protected by his father’s diplomatic immunity. Elizabeth Haysom did not protest extradition and was sentenced in 1987 to 90 years in prison for her role as accessory to murder. Soering appealed to the European Court of Human Rights, but the Court concluded that it would only intervene in the extradition if there was a risk of the death penalty. Soering’s lawyers pushed to have the German native tried in Germany where he would have faced a maximum 15-year prison term and would be eligible for release after only two years.
In a letter to his girlfriend written months after their arrest, Soering mocked US efforts to have him transferred to Virginia soil. “Those yokels don't know what's coming down," he wrote. Later in the letter he predicted his extradition to Germany where, “I'll be out in a surprisingly short time."
But when the United States assured Britain that they would not push for capital punishment, Soering was extradited to Virginia. Elizabeth Haysom testified against him, and Soering was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder on June 21, 1990. Later in the year, he was sentenced to two life-terms in prison.
Soering continued his push to be transferred to Germany, and authored several articles and books from prison. He steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, and has received some sympathy from other nations.
In January 2010, four days before leaving office as governor, Kaine asked the Department of Justice to approve Soering’s extradition request. Kaine’s spokesman, Gordon Hickey said at the time, “The governor considered it very carefully before he came to the decision. We have received assurances from the German government that made him comfortable with the transfer.”
As soon as McDonnell took office, he rescinded Kaine’s request, and several Virginia officials joined him in opposing Soering’s extradition. After the Department of Justice announced that it would not seek to extradite Soering, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli told The Richmond-Times Dispatch, “We did everything we could to stop this double-murderer from escaping our custody and from being released to Germany, where he would have served only a fraction of the sentence Virginia gave him. Virginia's interest in making Soering serve out his sentence is more important than Soering's interest in being transferred back to his homeland.”
Kaine never spoke publicly about the incident until now.
"This type of issue is one of many that the people of Virginia will learn a lot more about over the next year," said veteran GOP strategist Christopher LaCivita.
University of Richmond political science professor Dan Pallazollo does not think the issue will disappear. "One thing that could keep it alive is if he can't answer the question to people's satisfaction."