Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:08PM - 259 Views
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Ryan Scott Ottney


PDT Staff Writer


Six Serbian delegates toured Scioto County on Wednesday, as part of an international program to examine the United States legal system and procedures that encompass the enforcement of the law.


“One thing about Portsmouth, it’s somewhat similar to rural parts of Serbia. We find that it’s really important to get them outside the city so they can see how things operate in smaller towns and communities. With some of the issues here in Scioto County, with the drug trade and so-forth, we thought it would be good for them to compare the experience to similar regions in Serbia,” said Mark Poeppelman, Executive Director of the Columbus International Program.


Visiting was Vladimir Bacic, Chief Police Inspector, Department for Planning and Coordination of Financial Investigations; Ivan Duzlevski, Senior Assistant Prosecutor, Office of the War Crimes Prosecutor; Dejan Kovacevic, Police Official at the Unit for Financial Investigations in the Department for Planning and Coordination of Financial Investigations; Goran Mladenovic, Assistant Prosecutor/Public Prosecutor Advisor, Prosecutor’s Office for Struggle with Organized Crime; Tatjana Vasiljevic-Veljkovic, Assistant Prosecutor, Higher Public Prosecutor’s office in Belgrade; and Milan Cupic, Assistant, Subjects of Business finance and Financial restructuring of enterprises.


In Scioto County, delegates met with Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn, Sheriff Marty Donini and Sheriff’s Capt. David Hall. Delegates also met with representatives from the U.S. Marshalls, Department of Justice, Ohio Supreme Court, Bureau of Criminal Investigation, and the Ohio Inspector General’s office.


“The challenges of when we deal with criminals, especially larger scale operations, we’re talking individuals that are not dumb. They know the system, they know the law, they educate themselves, they figure out how to beat the police, they figure out how to conceal assets. They deal with the same things in Serbia as we deal with here, and I think that’s the first thing that jumps out at me. Some of the similarities,” Kuhn said.


The delegates met with Kuhn early on Wednesday to sit-in on an ongoing murder trial to witness American court system.


“We had a morning meeting at the courthouse today. We got the chance to observe an actual hearing taking place. Mark Kuhn gave us a presentation on asset forfeiture and some of the specific cases that he’s been involved in over the last few years. They (the delegates) actually commented to me that it’s probably the most beneficial meeting so far because this is where the rubber meets the road — talking about actual cases,” Poeppelman said.


Delegates will be housed with local families in order to experience American family life. They will also take part in several cultural and community activities, visit popular locales in the area, and sample restaurants. These activities are designed to expose participants to the wide array of American culture and pastimes. Locally, the delegates toured the community, breaking for lunch at the Scioto Ribber in Portsmouth, and visiting the Floodwall Murals.


One translator traveling with the group was very familiar with the community already — Josh Pennington grew up in Minford and now lives in Columbus, where he recently completed his Ph.D. in Slavic linguistics. He said he jumped at the chance to showoff his hometown.


“Before I even knew where we were going, he (Poeppelman) had already made up the schedule. It was kind of an interesting twist of fate that we ended up coming back to Portsmouth. So I’m able to actually give a good tour to this delegation of the locality,” Pennington said.


The U.S. Congress established Open World in 1999 and expanded the program in 2003 to all post-Soviet states. Thanks to Open World, some 14,000 current and future Eurasian leaders have experienced American civil society and have been exposed to new ideas and practices that they can adapt for use in their own work.


For more information about the Open World program, visit online at www.openworld.gov.


Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@heartlandpublications.com.


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