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Kaine says Germany should pay for Soering's lockup


(Ray Reed, WSLS, April 6, 2011, Link)


RICHMOND — Former Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, in his first news conference as a U.S. Senate candidate Wednesday, gave his first public explanation about trying to transfer convicted murderer Jens Soering to a German prison.

Kaine said he wanted to shift the cost of Soering’s incarceration to Germany, his native country where his father was a diplomat.

“I basically decided, 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.

In his final week as governor, in January 2010, Kaine asked the U.S. Department of Justice to transfer Soering to Germany from a Virginia prison where he is serving two life terms.

Incoming Gov. Bob McDonnell revoked the request, and about six months later the Justice Department said it would not make the transfer.

Kaine had not spoken publicly about the Soering case until the news conference in front of the Capitol building, in his first campaign appearance for the seat of retiring Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

Kaine said he wasn’t worried that the Soering request would become a campaign issue.

The ex-governor said he didn’t expect the request to be popular, “but I thought it would be the right thing to do.”

“Anything I have done is fair game,” Kaine said, adding that “I feel good about the rationale” for seeking the transfer.

Kaine said the German government had requested Soering’s transfer, and had assured him that Soering would be imprisoned there “for a period of years.”

Kaine said repeatedly during the news conference that his primary justification for the transfer request was relieving Virginia of the cost of his incarceration.

He also said there was another, minor, factor that he considered that involved reciprocity between nations on extradition matters.

If the German government’s request to him had been granted, “who knows, maybe there will be a case where the United States will go to the German government and want equivalent treatment. That can be beneficial,” Kaine said.

Soering, along with his then-girlfriend Elizabeth Haysom, was convicted of stabbing her parents to death in their Bedford County home in 1985.

Soering has renewed his efforts to gain the transfer by claiming there is reason to doubt his guilt.

Kaine said he did not doubt Soering’s guilt.

“I think he might be claiming innocence, or has claimed that at some point. I did not believe that to be the case,” Kaine said.

McDonnell has referred Soering’s arguments to the state parole board.

Also during Wednesday’s news conference, Kaine brushed off early GOP criticism casting him as a pawn of President Barack Obama and cheerleader for the Democratic Party.

“I don't follow anybody's orders or march in lock step with anyone,” Kaine said. “I do what I think is right.”

But Kaine said he will make no deliberate effort to distance himself from Obama or his policies, defending the administration and his work as DNC chairman.

“I don't need to back away from anything,” he said. “The president and I are friends. I support him and support the job he's doing.”

Kaine continued to hammer on his message of bringing Virginian principles to Washington, pledging to focus on the economy, fiscal responsibility and a bid to restore balance and civility.

Focusing on his term as governor, Kaine pointed to $6 billion in state budget cuts during his tenure as evidence that he knows how to lead in tough times.

Kaine, currently uncontested for the Democratic nomination, could square off with fellow former Gov. George Allen, a Republican who is seeking to reclaim the Senate seat he lost to Democrat Jim Webb in 2006.

The Richmond Times Dispatch contributed.
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