Courts

Blinken gets final call on Elk Grove man’s extradition as federal judge finds probable cause

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken will ultimately decide whether or not to surrender Elk Grove resident Dawid Wozniak to Poland to stand trial in a 2007 killing when he was 16.

A week after federal judge Kendall J. Newman signaled at a hearing that he would side with the government on the 31-year-old’s extradition, he formally announced the decision in a 13-page court order, shooting down Wozniak’s arguments of insufficient probable cause and an improper charging decision by Polish authorities.

“We are obviously disappointed in the court’s decision and strongly disagree with it,” Wozniak’s lead attorney, Joseph Abrams, said in an email. “It is our opinion that the judge took an overly-narrow view of his own authority and discretion in declining to seriously consider certain evidence and issues we raised, which could have made a difference in the outcome of the case,”

Newman said that a variety of evidence and witness statements challenged by Wozniak’s legal team didn’t establish probable cause on their own but, when analyzed together, left him with “a reasonable ground to believe” the then-teenager clubbed Andrezj Malinowski to death on Christmas Eve 17 years ago.

“Polish authorities may not have retrieved Wozniak’s DNA from the wooden stick, nor have a single witness who would testify to all of Wozniak’s alleged actions on the night Malinowski was assaulted,” Newman wrote. “But on the totality, these statements raise a “fair probability” Wozniak was the assailant.”

Newman also declined to overrule a Polish court’s decision to charge Wozniak as an adult, stating that he was “ill-equipped” to rule on Polish law and that federal court precedent suggests he err on the side of respect to a foreign country’s sovereignty.

“Wozniak essentially asks the court to overrule the Polish court’s orders that Wozniak be tried as an adult, which is unwise at best…” he continued, citing an appellate court decision that said courts in the US are “strongly discouraged” from weighing in on whether a foreign country followed its own laws.

Prosecutors in Poland say Wozniak and some friends, after a night of binge-drinking, stopped at a supermarket 60 miles from Warsaw when the then-teen grabbed a wooden stick and approached an unidentified man’s car, attempting to pull him out before being stopped by his friends.

Wozniak then began to walk in the direction of a nearby sports stadium, approaching three people waiting for a friend on the sidewalk, who he targeted with a sudden attack.

Wozniak and a friend, Syzmon Rutkowski, began to attack one of the men. A passerby walking on the sidewalk, Andrezj Malinowski, then approached the group and asked Wozniak what he wanted from the man.

That, prosecutors say, sent him into a rage. He allegedly struck Malinowski with the stick. He collapsed onto his back as Wozniak and a friend continued to beat and kick him, fleeing into the night and driving out of Grudusk. He died a week later of serious injuries to his skull and brain.

Wozniak was identified by several witnesses, who pegged him at the scene through the controversial mention of a short-sleeve t-shirt and the positive identification of several photographs. The wooden stick was never forensically linked to Wozniak, although his friend Rutkowski hesitantly implicated him at his own trial in Poland.

Newman’s certification order was sent to United States Secretary of State Antony Blinken, along with a copy of the evidence and a transcript of the June 23rd hearing, for his final determination regarding a possible surrender to Poland. Wozniak will remain in US Marshal custody at the Sacramento County Main Jail until that decision is reached.

Ethan Biando
Ethan Biando is a freelance journalist from Sacramento. His writing focuses on crime, courts, and policing. Find him on Twitter @ethanb822

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