Neringa Venckiene has been released on bond by a Lithuanian judge, according to Lithuanian news outlets.
The former Crystal Lake resident, facing charges that led to her recent extradition from a Chicago jail where she had been held for two years, was released on 10,000 euro bond and under Vilnius Regional Court supervision, according to LRT News.
The charges Venckiene faces do not necessarily carry prison sentences, Judge Aušra Bielskė said in the ruling, stating that Venckiene should not be considered a flight risk.
Venckiene, a former Lithuanian judge, sought asylum in the U.S. after outing an alleged pedophilia ring. Her son still lives in Crystal Lake.
Venckiene, 48, moved to Crystal Lake with her son in 2013 after she outed this alleged pedophilia ring, which also allegedly involved her then-4-year-old niece. Her family has voiced fears of political persecution if Venckiene was returned to Lithuania, where she faces dozens of charges, including spying on the government and lying about officials.
Her cousin, Vilija Ball, was relieved to hear of Venckiene’s release, but remained skeptical of the Lithuanian government’s motives.
“We consider it nothing short of a miracle because the judges that were on the appellate court judge panel were biased against her and her family in the previous cases associated with the pedophilia and Neringa’s niece that was taken from her care by force in 2013,” Ball said in an email Tuesday.
Venckiene was a central figure in a scandal that gripped and divided her nation of 3 million before she left in 2013, as prosecutors prepared charges. She is viewed by some Lithuanians as a heroine for exposing a seedy criminal network and by others as a manipulator who fabricated the pedophilia claims.
Events that engulfed Venckiene included the slaying of another judge accused of molesting her niece; and the death of Venckiene’s brother, who leveled the initial child abuse accusation and was a suspect in the murder.
Venckiene based her allegations about a pedophile network, in part, on a 2009 video in which her niece graphically describes several men sexually abusing her.
Venckiene was granted custody of her niece, but later was ordered to return the girl to her mother, one of her immigration attorneys, Mark Davidson, wrote in a July 24 letter to the U.S. Department of State. Despite several attempts to facilitate what Davidson called a “peaceful transfer” of custody, the girl refused to leave Venckiene out of fear of molestation, the attorney wrote.
On May 17, 2012, about 240 police officers arrived at Venckiene’s home where 80 to 100 protesters were gathered to rally against the girl’s removal. Officers detained 39 protesters and forcibly removed a number of Venckiene’s’s supporters. They ultimately removed the girl after covering her head in a blanket believed to be soaked in psychotropic substances, Davidson wrote.
Still, authorities said they weren’t able to find evidence corroborating the girl’s claims and Venckiene said neither she nor her family has heard from her niece since.
“They are still cooking something against her because they want to punish her and to use her as a scapegoat in the pedophilia case,” Ball said.
But Venckiene’s grassroots anti-pedophilia movement wasn’t rooted in lies, Davidson wrote.
“Several psychological evaluations conducted pursuant to criminal court order deemed [the girl’s] allegations of molestation to be legitimate and not the product of fantasy or fabrication.”
• Northwest Herald reporter Katie Smith contributed to this report.