ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota man pleaded guilty Thursday to concealing his military service during the Bosnian war and a lengthy criminal history — including a conviction for shooting and killing a neighbor — when he entered the country.
Zdenko Jakisa came to the U.S. in 1998 as a refugee and became a lawful permanent resident in 2002, settling in Forest Lake, where he runs a taxicab company with his wife. But he was arrested and charged last spring with possessing unlawfully obtained documents for not disclosing his service in the armed forces of the Croatian Defense Council in Bosnia-Herzegovina during the 1990s or his criminal past.
Jakisa pleaded guilty in federal court in St. Paul Thursday morning. He nodded along and said “yes” as his attorney read a long rap sheet of incidents in Bosnia he omitted from his applications to enter the country and get a green card: shooting and killing a neighbor by firing an AK-47 into her window; several convictions for assault and disturbing the peace; and arrests for stealing a cash register and commercial scales.
“I feel guilty, yeah,” Jakisa told U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson.
Jakisa was part of the armed forces of Croats and Bosnians — some Muslim — that fought Serbs in the Bosnian war. More than 100,000 people were killed during the conflict, which turned half of the country’s population of 4.3 million into refugees.
In the shooting of neighbor Nevenka Elezovic, Jakisa was charged with causing general danger. He came to the U.S. while his case was pending and was convicted in absentia and sentenced to six months in prison.
Jakisa was also accused by two brothers of killing their parents in Bosnia in 1993, according to documents filed by prosecutors. Prosecutors did not bring up Jakisa’s alleged involvement in the deaths because he wasn’t charged.
He also has a criminal history in Minnesota, including multiple convictions for driving while impaired, disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process. Michael Plotnick, a special agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations, previously testified Jakisa has resisted arrest in some of these cases and threatened to kill authorities.
The felony charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and possible deportation, but a plea agreement with federal prosecutors calls for a nine- to 15-month sentence.
Jakisa’s guilty plea came as federal prosecutors planned a deposition for a witness from Serbia next week. Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathan Petterson declined to discuss that witness and whether the planned deposition was a factor in Thursday’s guilty plea.
(© Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)