OKO.PRESS AND ONET INVESTIGATION. Judges Cichocki and Szmydt were in a group of judges gathered around judge Piebiak, deputy to Minister of Justice Ziobro. Today they tell how they searched for evidence against, among others, the president of Iustitia, Prof. Markiewicz. They describe the role of "little Emi" and their relations with judge Piebiak. And they apologize
"I lost the most on cooperation with the "good change". Both my family and my professional position," judge Tomasz Szmydt, the former husband of Emilia Szmydt ("little Emi"), the latter being a former online hater and then a whistleblower who helped expose the entire so-called hater scandal, tells OKO.press and Onet.
"I've been trying to put my life back together for four years. But I believe that if I have even witnessed the destruction of judges - and I have, unfortunately - I can no longer remain silent" - says Judge Arkadiusz Cichocki. Both of them in 2018 were on the front line of PiS's "judicial reforms", where key roles were played by the then Deputy Minister of Justice Łukasz Piebiak, nicknamed "Herszt".
This story could be the basis for a political-legal series with several seasons. Ruthless politics, naive belief in a black and white world, immoral proposals, unethical choices, love affair, divorce and, most of all, power in its most vulgar form.
The moral thread of the hate-filled affair ended in divorce and a nervous breakdown, requiring a hospital stay and lengthy treatment. The three people involved in the attacks on those judges who were opposing the government, are now trying to put their lives back together.
One of them is "Little Emi", that is Emilia Szmydt, at that time the wife of judge Tomasz Szmydt and also the lover of judge Arkadiusz Cichocki. All three of them took part in actions to discredit lawyers criticizing changes in the judiciary. The procedure was coordinated with the then vice-minister of justice Łukasz Piebiak.
"I would like to remain a judge until I can retire. To have a clear conscience, I have to say what I saw and what I participated in. Sometimes just seeing something wrong and not reacting is enough to participate in it. The judge must demand more of himself. I didn't at the time. Unfortunately. I regret and I apologize," Arkadiusz Cichocki tells OKO.press and Onet. Today he is an ordinary judge of the Regional Court in Gliwice, and in 2018, i.e. before the outbreak of the hate-filled scandal, he was its president appointed by Minister Ziobro's department.
Tomasz Szmydt adds that he is "doing his job", adjudicating in the Voivodship Administrative Court in Warsaw. "I am not particularly fearful, but I am afraid of what the so-called 'good change' can come up with about me to discredit me. And I want to live a normal life. Especially since I have lost everything I had to lose. My family and professional position," the judge stresses. Before the hate-filled scandal broke out, he worked as a delegate in the Ministry of Justice and in the legal office of the new National Council of the Judiciary [KRS in Polish].
According to the investigation by OKO.press and Onet, the person who coordinated the whole action of searching for hooks on judges was the then vice-minister of justice Łukasz Piebiak. In two previous texts we revealed, among other things, that he gave unauthorized persons access to official, internal documents of the Ministry of Justice. We also showed how the dialogues between people gathered around Piebiak on the Kasta/Antykasta online discussion group looked like.
In subsequent episodes of our journalistic investigation we will describe so far unknown activities of the group of judges gathered around Piebiak. Today, we are giving the floor to judges Cichocki and Szmydt: they tell us how the group operated, explain themselves, and... apologize.
How Piebiak failed to dismiss Cichocki
Emilia Szmydt met judge Cichocki when he was supposed to help her clarify accusations against lawyers opposing changes introduced by the Law and Justice party in the judiciary. She acted as a liaison between the environment centered around judge Łukasz Piebiak, who organized actions to discredit ideological opponents, and the media, to which she sent information consulted by Piebiak. Emilia Szmydt and judge Cichocki began a tumultuous affair, which ended with the breakup of her marriage to judge Tomasz Szmydt and the breakdown of all three of them. And the exposure of the hate-filled scandal. We do not go into the moral details of this story, but in this text we show the functioning of all three within the camp of the so-called good change in the judiciary.
According to our information Piebiak had full knowledge about judge Cichocki's affair with Emilia Szmydt and its consequences, i.e. the woman's grudge against the judge and the revenge she already announced at that time.
According to the screens we have and the judge's own words, Piebiak talked to Zbigniew Ziobro about the Cichocki affair. The justice minister was said to have decided that there was no need for Cichocki to step down as president of the Gliwice Regional Court, which he himself proposed to Piebiak. This was happening in September 2018.
We asked Minister Ziobro about this. The press office of the Ministry of Justice answered us as follows: "As for the personal matters of judges, many have complicated relationships in this sphere - and even ongoing litigation. However, private issues are not an area of interest for the ministry - they did not and do not affect personnel decisions."
The dismissal of Cichocki from his position as president of the court did not occur until early 2019, when intimate photos of him were published. This was done by Emila Szmydt on Twitter.
A scathing attack on the president of Iustitia. Piebiak knew about it
As Judge Cichocki tells us, his acquaintance with Emilia Szmydt began with a conversation on WhatsApp messenger on June 23, 2018. It was she who called the judge, her identity during the conversation was confirmed by her husband Tomasz Szmydt.
"Emilia called me with the information that she was participating in an action against the president of Iustitia Judge Krystian Markiewicz," says Judge Cichocki. - She asked me to examine from a legal point of view the possibility of using for procedural purposes any information about an alleged abortion, to which Emilia claimed that professor Markiewicz had encouraged a woman associated with him.
Cichocki emphasizes that Emilia Szmydt asked him not to inform anyone about the content of the conversation, except possibly the vice-minister Piebiak.
"Later, around mid-July 2018, Emilia herself told me that she regularly notified Deputy Minister Piebiak about the information regarding Markiewicz and the action against him. She also sent me a screen capture of an excerpt from her conversation with the deputy minister," Cichocki says. "In a conversation on June 23, she also asked me for the e-mail addresses of members of the Iustitia association, to which I belonged in the past. I sent her a cumulative informational e-mail once sent to members of the Silesian branch of Iustitia, including me," - Judge Cichocki says.
"A few days later, Emilia informed me that she was circulating by mail and e-mail a text about Judge Markiewicz, from an anonymous account set up for this purpose" - judge Cichocki continues the story.
According to the information revealed by Onet on August 19, 2019, Emilia's action of sending to Iustitia members a four-page long accusing email about Judge Markiewicz - with a suggestion in the body of the email that he had induced a woman to have an abortion - took place two days after her conversation with Judge Cichocki, i.e. on June 25, 2018. Both the process of preparing this action and its course Emilia agreed with Piebiak on an ongoing basis, as confirmed by screenshots revealed by Onet at the time. It was then, in correspondence with Piebiak - when Emilia half-jokingly wrote that she "hopes they don't put her in jail" - that judge Piebiak wrote back with the famous phrase:
"for doing good we don't put in jail."
Judge Szmydt: Piebiak must have known, and Puchalski was helping
"I knew that the action against Judge Markiewicz was being prepared," the second of OKO.press and Onet's informants, Judge Tomasz Szmydt, then Emilia's husband, now already divorced, tells us. - Emilia sent me a four-page document concerning Judge Markiewicz, which she intended to send to members of Iustitia. I know for a fact that Judge Rafał Puchalski assisted her in editing the content of the email and its title."
Puchalski is Zbigniew Ziobro's nominee for president of the Rzeszów Regional Court and a member of the new NCJ, who is also a candidate for the next term of the Council, which may be elected by the Sejm in the near future. In the current NCJ, Puchalski is the head of the Judges and Assessors Professional Ethics Commission. When in October 2019 Onet revealed that it was Puchalski who was the editor who "smoothed out" the content of Emilia Szmydt's email to Iustitia members, he strongly denied it. Now we have confirmation of his participation in this action from another source - from Judge Szmydt.
"It is obvious to me that before the action against Judge Markiewicz took place, Łukasz Piebiak was informed about everything," - says Judge Szmydt. He emphasizes: "Without his approval, no one would have ever sent anything, it would not have even occurred to anyone. Moreover, Judge Puchalski would not have been so actively involved in helping my then-wife edit the contents of the e-mail if he had not received instructions and permission ''from above''.
"Piebiak must have known about everything in advance," - Judge Szmydt points out.
Cichocki is visited in the hospital by the disciplinary commissioner. With a camera and a protocol officer
When Onet published a series of articles in August 2019 about the hate-filled scandal surrounding the Ministry of Justice, Judge Arkadiusz Cichocki was hospitalized. At the end of August, he had a long phone conversation with Onet, in which, among other things, he admitted that the events described in the article actually took place. But he did not authorize the text. Why?
Well, after the conversation with journalists the judge did not have access to his phone for health reasons. He was in a bad condition. A short time later, Cichocki was visited in another hospital by chief disciplinary commissioner Piotr Schab. "It was not a social visit, I had not known Judge Schab privately before," says Cichocki.
"Judge Schab came to me with a camera and a protocol officer and in the presence of my then attorney questioned me.
This took place in a closed hospital ward, I was questioned as a witness, among other things, about facts that the media wrote about at the time, including Onet," Cichocki tells us.
He goes on to say, "I cannot say anything about the content of my testimony that I gave then because I would break the law. And this was, in my opinion, the key reason why Judge Schab conducted the hearing so quickly, although usually witnesses who are in the hospital, on sick leave, etc., are not heard without good reason. I was not dying; there was no risk that I could not be cross-examined later when I left the hospital. In this way my mouth was effectively shut, I felt that from that moment on I could no longer talk to the media, I had to "keep my mouth shut". Because if I were to reveal today what I said during that interrogation, I would violate Article 241 of the Penal Code [it prohibits the disclosure of materials from the proceedings - ed.] This is not a joke, there is a penalty of up to two years in prison here."
We emphasize that the disciplinary commissioner Piotr Schab did not answer the questions we sent him about Cichocki's interrogation in the hospital.
"I can't keep quiet any longer. I apologize."
"The fact that I cannot speak about the content of the testimony given in the presence of disciplinary commissioner Schab does not change the fact that there are matters about which I can and must speak" - Arkadiusz Cichocki confesses. "These matters also include my participation, for which I remain ashamed to this day, in pre-planned activities within the leadership of the Ministry of Justice, with the complicity of Emilia Szmydt, designed to harm specific judges. For example, Judge Monika Frąckowiak from Poznań, to whom I have already apologized several times. Here I will apologize again," says Judge Cichocki.
He tells OKO.press and Onet: "The fact is that after contacting Emilia Szmydt, who directly wrote whether "we have something on this bitch?", I conducted the so-called white investigation on the Internet. I gathered for Emilia all the statements of Ms. Frącowiak, which could provide grounds for disciplinary action against her. As you can easily guess, these were statements criticising the so-called 'good change' in the courts. I also checked what can be found about her in court rulings. On the official portal of court rulings, available to everyone on the Internet, I found a case in which Judge Frąckowiak made a mistake that caused the so-called nullity of proceedings. I wrote about it to Emilia Szmydt. I suspect that she used this information to denounce her.
Cichocki goes on to say, "I also reviewed, 'without any procedure', the so-called 'green files' in the office of the then deputy minister of justice Łukasz Piebiak, who made the files available to me. The point was to find "hooks" on the judges identified by name. Only the management of the ministry should have access to these files. I got this insight because I was trusted and I was supposed to find something on the indicated judge.
"This is how it worked on a daily basis. Someone who messed with the so-called 'fax presidents' [appointed by fax by Minister Ziobro - ed.] or with the ministry's management, then this immediately started “the hooks” finder machine and digging through everything - court records, 'green files,' public statements of that person. On the principle: "give me a man and a paragraph will be found"". - says Cichocki.
"And I took part in it. I am ashamed to this day. The more so because it seemed right to me at the time," the judge admits.
"And today?" - we ask.
"Today I see one thing. I did wrong. I'm sorry. I want to come clean, close this chapter forever. I have always wanted to be a judge and I would like to remain a judge. And why did I remain silent for nearly four years? Well, it's not easy to pick yourself up after such experiences, to start living and working normally. It took time and effort, both for me and my loved ones," Judge Cichocki asserts.
"After that hospital hearing by disciplinary commissioner Schab in the fall of 2019, I felt 'gagged'. It was time to get out of it. And because I have seen the planned destruction of judges, I cannot and will no longer remain silent. Because even when I was just a witness, I didn't do anything about it. I've had enough, I have to live with it, so I want to at least talk about it," - says Judge Cichocki.
Szmydt: I am not fearful. But I am afraid of what the "good change" may prepare for me
"I do my job. I adjudicate in an administrative court [Voivodship Administrative Court - ed.] in Warsaw. And if someone doesn't say good morning to me in the hallway because they associate me with a hate-filled scandal? That's fine, I'll take it," judge Tomasz Szmydt tells OKO.press and Onet.
"I'm not particularly fearful, but I'll be honest. I'm a little afraid of what the 'good change' might do to me to discredit me. Because you can find something on everyone, any, excuse me for the word, bullshit. Any method of finding anything on those who fall into disfavor has been and, I suppose, still is accepted by those in power," the judge added.
As recently as 2019, Szmydt denied in the media his participation in the activities of a group denigrating judges who acted against the government's changes to the judiciary. He believed that his name was mentioned in the affair only because of his wife's actions. Today he looks at the whole matter differently.
"I myself witnessed that special services’ documents with the classification 'confidential' circulated freely among people who had no right of access to such materials. I can't give details, but that's how it was". - Szmydt points out. He continues: "I know one thing. It was true and a fact that there was a group called Kasta and Antykasta on WhatsApp, the name kept changing. I joined there sometime in the first half of 2018. Certainly, Łukasz Piebiak and judge Jakub Iwaniec, who was an administrator, belonged to the group. There was also Konrad Wytrykowski - today in the Disciplinary Chamber of the Supreme Court. There were also deputies of the chief disciplinary commissioner, judges Przemyslaw Radzik and Michal Lasota and members of the National Council of the Judiciary - Jaroslaw Dudzicz, Dariusz Drajewicz and Rafal Puchalski."
"Why did this group exist? Let me put it bluntly, it was a support group. We, the so-called 'good change' judges, were not looked upon very favorably by the community. So it was all the more important that such a place existed where we could talk without fear. We, people on the same side and with similar views". - explains Judge Szmydt.
Cichocki: Kasta/Antykasta already existed since 2017
"The group Antykasta or interchangeably Kasta on WhatsApp [a discussion group - ed.] already existed in 2017, I joined at the turn of 2017 and 2018. I learned about its existence from Judge Jaroslaw Dudzicz [member of the new NCJ - ed.] in December 2017" - Judge Arkadiusz Cichocki tells OKO.press and Onet. He adds, "Łukasz Piebiak joined the group later than me, in the spring of 2018."
The judge says the name of the discussion group on WhatsApp was changing. "It's easy to explain" - assures the judge. And he explains, "Well, in the first quarter of 2018, the administrator of this group Jakub Iwaniec informed us that the group would be terminated. The reason for this, known only to a selected group of people, was to be the loss of trust in one of the members of the group, Judge Remigiusz Guz, then president of the District Court in Wodzisław Śląski, who resigned from his position in May 2018."
"By liquidating the group, they wanted to get rid of him from it. Immediately after the liquidation of the chat room, Judge Iwaniec immediately recreated it, but already without this one 'suspicious' person" - explains Judge Cichocki. He adds: 'The name of a chat on WhatsApp is decided by its administrator, in this case judge Jakub Iwaniec'.
"The entry about the dachshund Brysia, to whom I compared the First President of the Supreme Court, is true. I apologize."
Judge Cichocki admits to a not very elegant entry about the then [in 2018-ed.] First President of the Supreme Court Professor Małgorzata Gersdorf. "Yes, in some statement, most likely just on the Kasta group, I compared her to my dachshund Brysia and suggested that she be 'taken for a walk. I am very ashamed of that and I apologize once again. To say it was inappropriate is not enough. This is no way to talk about the First President of the Supreme Court, even in a private conversation that is not meant for outsiders," Cichocki declared to OKO.press and Onet.
Let us remind, during this discussion on the Kasta group - which Onet described in 2019 - the current member of the Disciplinary Chamber at the Supreme Court Konrad Wytrykowski was to make a proposal that postcards with the slogan: "fuck off" should be sent to Prof. Małgorzata Gersdorf at her address in the Supreme Court. Konrad Wytrykowski denied these reports.
"I don't remember this post by Konrad Wytrykowski. But if I, as a judge, were to evaluate the authenticity of this entry and the entire screen during the hearing, based on the information I have, I would probably consider it authentic," Judge Cichocki noted.
Szmydt: My ex-wife had access to my phone
Judge Szmydt briefly adds that if Cichocki confirms the authenticity of the posts about the First President of the Supreme Court - then they must be true. "I will say one thing. In that discussion there was allegedly my entry that Prof. Gersdorf should 'pack up, say goodbye and get the fuck out'. Let me be clear - I did not write that," asserts Judge Szmydt.
So who wrote it? "I don't know, but I will say this. My then wife Emilia Szmydt had unlimited and free access to my phone. She could – pretending to be me - post on any groups, including the Kasta group. I trusted her". - claims the judge.
Why did he decide now to talk about the events of four years ago? Szmydt: "First of all, I want to free myself from the past, because it does not bring me pride. Besides, when I see how they try to sweep the issue of the hate-filled scandal under the carpet, it simply makes me sick. It can't be, that bad and nasty things happened and now all of a sudden their inspirers or participants not only make careers. But they want to build their image as the most righteous and pure like Caesar's wife. No state can function that way."