Courts

Judge could certify Elk Grove man’s extradition at key hearing this week

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An extradition hearing for an Elk Grove man accused of beating a man to death in Poland in 2007, when he was 16, has been scheduled to be held later this week. At the hearing, a federal judge could certify the extradition request and send the final decision up to the US Secretary of State.

Lawyers for Dawid Wozniak and the federal government have both filed briefs intended to support their opposing positions on the 31-year-old’s possible extradition. Polish officials say Wozniak beat Andrezj Malinowski to death with a stick in a drunken rage in 2007 for attempting to intervene as he hurt another man waiting for a friend outside of her house.

Before that, after Wozniak and his friends parked at a supermarket, the then-teen allegedly tried to pull an unidentified man out of his car. He faces no charges in relation to the other alleged acts of violence and faces one count of grievous bodily injury resulting in the death of Malinowski.

Federal prosecutors say that the evidence submitted in their extradition request, a charging document and statements from several witnesses and a Polish prosecutor, establishes probable cause that Wozniak killed Malinowski.

“Collectively, this is abundant evidence of probable cause,” Assistant US Attorney Audrey Hemesath wrote in a brief. “The extradition request includes corroborating eyewitness statements from the group of people who were stopped at the house on the way to midnight mass, all of whom identified the man wearing the short-sleeve shirt as the attacker with the wooden bat.”

Hemesath also cited eyewitness statements from members of Wozniak’s own group, who she said “appeared to minimize their own involvement” but nonetheless confirmed Wozniak was present.

“Wozniak’s friend Szymanski, who went to trial, was still reluctant to implicate Wozniak, but clarified that there was no one else around the victim when he was beaten until he collapsed, and Wozniak was the one holding the bat,” Hemesath continued.

A team of lawyers for Wozniak, Joseph Abrams of Alameda and Ryan T. Okabe of Manhattan Beach, say the evidence outlined by the government fails to establish probable cause.

They take issue with the 23-inch stick Wozniak allegedly used to bludgeon Malinowski to death and point to a portion of the Polish prosecutor’s statement to support their case.

“The item of physical evidence does not contribute to the finding of probable cause as it cannot be forensically linked to Mr. Wozniak,” the lawyers wrote. “Specifically, according to the certified statement from the Polish prosecutor, ‘It [the stick] has not been found out during this investigation that any traces originating from Dawid Tomasz Wozniak were found on this piece of evidence’.”

The attorneys also seek to strike several witness statements, citing the rule of specialty, because they aren’t tied to Wozniak’s sole charge in the death of Malinowski. Prosecutors have asserted that Wozniak tried to pull an elderly man out of his car and attacked another man with the stick before launching his fatal attack on Malinowski.

They want to strike statements from Szymon Rutkowski, who Wozniak allegedly attacked in front of his friend’s house, as well as statements from Szymanski and witness Mariusz Kozlowski. Every statement involves other illegal acts prosecutors have asserted Wozniak committed that he was ultimately never charged with.

“Therefore, Mr. Wozniak respectfully requests that the Court strike from the record the relevant portion of the statement and that it not be considered in the probable cause determination,” they wrote.

The lawyers argue further that Wozniak was improperly charged as an adult, citing a letter from the District Public Prosecutor’s Office in Ciechanow. In that letter, the prosecutor’s office challenged the court’s decision to prosecute Wozniak as an adult and questioned the strength of the evidence submitted against him.

“The complaint by the District Public Prosecutor’s Office is a clear and powerful rebuke of the Polish court’s conduct in assessing the critical issue of whether or not Dawid should have been prosecuted as an adult, or even at all,” the brief reads. “The complaint speaks directly to the critical issue of probable cause that this court must decide at Dawid’s extradition hearing.”

Court will resume on Thursday, where a federal judge is set to rule on the possible certification of Wozniak’s extradition. If the extradition is certified, the decision will be sent to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, whose office holds the final decision to surrender overseas fugitives.

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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