Courts

Wozniak extradition will be certified, judge says

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A federal judge on Thursday signaled his intent to certify the extradition of Elk Grove resident Dawid Wozniak, charged with killing a man in Poland in 2007 at the age of 16.

Newman said he would address the decision further in a formal court order he plans to issue early next week. Wozniak quietly listened in to the judge’s decision through a cell phone with a Polish interpreter on the other end, briefly speaking with his family after the hearing was adjourned, before being led back to the jail.

The 31-year-old could be surrendered to Polish authorities by the US Department of State to stand trial on a single charge of grievous bodily injury resulting in the death of Andrezj Malinowski. Prosecutors in Poland said that Wozniak, a teenager at the time, brutally beat the man with a wooden stick after a night of binge drinking with friends. He died in the hospital a week later from injuries to his brain and skull.

US District Court filing

Wozniak’s attorneys argued that he was improperly charged as an adult and challenged several elements for probable cause submitted by the government including witness statements and the weapon used in the killing that was never forensically linked to Wozniak.

Abrams said the extradition request “reeks of weakness” and decried the work by police and prosecutors in Poland as “sloppy” conduct that effectively stripped Wozniak of his rights.

“If they trampled his rights when he wasn’t there, I can’t imagine what’s gonna happen when he goes back there,” Abrams said in court.

The extradition request was delayed for over a decade, with an arrest warrant only being issued for Wozniak in February of this year – over 15 years since Malinowski passed away in his hospital bed. Abrams suggested that, due to Wozniak’s age at the time of the alleged offense, he could’ve been influenced by his older friends.

“None of these things were discussed or assessed the way they should have been, and they never will be now. I can’t get that out of my mind. I can’t get that out of my heart in a lot of ways.”

Assistant US Attorney Audrey Hemesath said the evidence previously submitted in briefs, including the weapon, witness statements, and reports from a medical examiner went “well above” what is required for probable cause.

Wozniak’s co-defendant, previously convicted in Poland, made a statement at trial that placed Wozniak at the scene with the weapon, although he was somewhat hesitant to do so.

“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 previously wrote in a brief.

Judge Newman ruled at the beginning of the hearing that there wasn’t a “significant enough” question to address the concept of Wozniak being improperly charged at the extradition hearing. He would disagree with most of the points Wozniak’s lawyers raised, saying some are better off to be decided in Poland.

“I really think that is an appropriate issue to raise with the State Department and not something for this court to be involved in or get into with regard to the extradition matter,” Newman said.

Newman said the charges levied against Wozniak are “hard to reconcile” with the life he currently leads in the US, working as a contractor for CalFire while holding down a marriage and a steady family life before it was abruptly disrupted by his arrest.

“I totally get it, it’s hard to reconcile, almost, the charges in this case and the picture that has been portrayed to me of Mr. Wozniak today, and since he’s been in the US,” Newman said. “But in terms of my limited role, it seems to me that there is more than enough evidence to establish probable cause. You’ll have your arguments to the State Department, but I think the determination for this court on the extradition is really quite straightforward.”

After Judge Newman issues his order next week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the State Department will hold the final decision on whether or not to surrender Wozniak to Poland, one of the country’s top allies in Europe, according to the Department of Justice.

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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