Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Investigator to testify about murder of Polish police official

A millionaire businessman's attorney said Monday that he will call a key investigator and other witnesses to refute claims that his client was involved in the murder of a top Polish police official.

Edward A. Mazur, 60, of suburban Glenview, listened silently, clad in a bright orange prisoner's jumpsuit, as defense attorney Chris Gair argued for permission to call witnesses at his extradition hearing on Wednesday.

Chief Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys said he would allow Gair to call several witnesses despite federal prosecutors' claims they don't know anything that could help determine whether Poland's extradition request is in order.

Prosecutors want to send Mazur to Poland where authorities want to question him in the investigation of the 1998 shooting death of Marek Papala, the former commander of the Warsaw Department of Police.

Gair stressed that Mazur has not been charged with a crime in the United States or Poland. The extradition request from Poland does accuse him of offering $40,000 for the murder of Papala.

But Gair said he will call Mazur's son, Michael, to testify that his father was in the Cayman Islands on a family vacation at the time that the Polish documents say he offered the money.

He said the family has passports and other documents to prove that claim.

Federal prosecutor Mitchell A. Mars, head of the organized crime section of the U.S. attorney's office, said there was no certainty about the timing of the $40,000 offer and that whatever documents the Mazur family might be able to come up with could easily prove nothing.

Among the witnesses Gair plans to call is Col. Ryszard Bieczynski, a Polish police official. Gair said Bieczynski investigated the Papala killing.

Gair claimed that the Polish government "is trying to frame Mr. Mazur" and said that Bieczynski has a well placed informant with inside knowledge of Polish organized crime. That informant, Gair said, knows Mazur had nothing to do with the Papala slaying.

That brought a sarcastic retort from Mars.

"Calling Col. Bieczynski is kind of the equivalent of Mr. Gair calling Carnac the Magnificent," Mars said, referring to television talk show host Johnny Carson's comic mind-reading act. He suggested there was no way that Bieczynski and his informant could be sure of their information.

Mars also challenged Gair's statement that Bieczynski had headed the investigation of the Papala murder.

"Our information is that he did not," Mars said.

Keys, who will preside over the hearing, barred Gair from calling Justice Department lawyer Michael Dittoe as a witness for the defense.

The Washington-based Dittoe was at the hearing to help Mars with the government's efforts to extradite Mazur.

Gair said he understood the U.S. government had agreed to extradite Mazur as part of negotiations with the Polish government to secure the extradition of a suspect in a terrorism case who was arrested in Poland.

Dittoe said the Polish and American governments always talk about existing extradition cases and that the case Gair referred to was pending at the time they were negotiating for the extradition of Mazur. But, he said, the two cases were separate.

Keys said he planned to complete the extradition hearing no later than Thursday. He indicated that he was likely to take the matter under advisement and not make a decision on the spot whether to extradite Mazur.

If Keys does order Mazur extradited, the case could be tied up in appeals for considerable time before any final action is taken.