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Republicans lash Kaine on Soering transfer decision

It has been two years since the decision about a German who killed a couple in Bedford County.

(by Mason Adams, The Roanoke Times, January 20, 2012, Link)


Virginia Republicans marked the two-year anniversary of then-Gov. Tim Kaine's request that the U.S. Department of Justice approve the transfer of convicted double-murderer Jens Soering to Germany with a conference call Thursday criticizing Kaine for his handling of the incident.

The issue will likely play a prominent role in the race for U.S. Senate this year, as Democrats and Republicans traded shots at each other over characterization of the request.

Soering, the son of a retired German diplomat, received consecutive life sentences for the 1985 stabbing deaths of his girlfriend's parents in their Bedford County home.

Kaine had previously denied a clemency petition from Soering, but during his last week in office, Kaine approved a transfer agreement with the Department of Justice and the German government. Under terms of the agreement, Soering would have served at least two years in a German prison before becoming eligible for release. Gov. Bob McDonnell revoked Virginia's consent for the transfer shortly after taking office.

Kaine has said that he rejected an initial transfer agreement but changed his mind after German authorities agreed to keep Soering behind bars for an unspecified period before he would be eligible for release, as well as to prohibit him from returning to the United States.

In a conference call, U.S. Rep Bob Goodlatte, state Sen. Steve Newman and Maj. Ricky Gardner of the Bedford County Sheriff's Office criticized Kaine for his handling of the case.

"People in central and Southwest Virginia are very familiar with what took place here and feel that justice was done when both Mr. Soering and his girlfriend, the daughter of the victims, were convicted and sentenced to very long prison terms," Goodlatte said. "It was a total surprise to me when Governor Kaine made this announcement. I remember vividly the outrage from constituents who contacted us."

Gardner said Kaine's decision raises questions about his judgment: "It makes me and the people of Bedford and Bedford County, the Lynchburg area, question why he did what he did. †If he's making decisions like this, then as a voter, I'm going to question his ability to make those judgments."

The Kaine campaign responded, noting that violent crime rates fell four consecutive years while he was governor.

Kaine "believes the voters will appropriately judge him on his record of reducing crime, as well as making critical economic, education, and infrastructure investments which have positively impacted Virginia's cities, businesses, and residents," said Brandi Hoffman, Kaine's communications director. "Governor Kaine rejected Soering's request for clemency because he believed then and continues to believe that Soering is guilty. He also rejected the German government's request for a transfer because there was no guarantee that Soering would be barred from returning to the U.S. It wasn't until the German government convicted Soering of murder, agreed to transfer him directly to a German jail, and prohibited him from ever returning to the U.S. that Governor Kaine agreed to sign a recommendation to the Attorney General for his transfer under a treaty signed by President Reagan."

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