Slovakian Court Acquits Businessman in Jan Kuciak Murder Case; Sentences his Ex Lover

To the astonishment of the victim's family members, a Slovak court has, for the second time, acquitted businessman Marian Kočner of charges accusing him of ordering the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancee five years ago, as well as preparing the murders of two prosecutors.

Marian Kocner PavlaThe police take Marian Kocner to the courtroom. (Photo: Pavla Holcova, Specialized Criminal Court in Pezinok found on Friday that it was not Kočner, but his former lover Alena Zsuzsová, who ordered the murders. She also created and collected compromising materials on influential Slovak figures to help and please Kočner.

The verdict stated that Kočner had no knowledge of her plans nor did he provide financial support for them.

"She feared that she might lose her regular monthly income and other benefits provided by the defendant Marian Kočner," the verdict said. Zsuzsová was described as being "emotionally, financially, and psychologically dependent" on Kočner.

The court did not address how Zsuzsová would have obtained the hundreds of thousands of euros needed to pay the hit men, especially considering that several foreclosures were pending against her and she was unemployed at the time of the planning and execution of the murders.

After Judge Sabová announced Kočner's innocence, the families of Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová left the courtroom with tears in their eyes.

They initially headed towards their cars but then sat down on the grass.

"I absolutely don't understand it..." Kuciak's father said. It was the only thing he was able to articulate.

Meanwhile, back in the courtroom, Sabová pronounced the verdict: 25 years for Zsuzsová, who decided to stay in her cell on Friday. This sentence is not yet final, but Zsuzsová is already serving a 21-year sentence for organizing the murder of the former mayor of the municipality of Hurbanovo.

Kočner was brought to the courtroom handcuffed straight from prison where he is serving a 19-year sentence for forging promissory notes for Slovak television station Markíza. He claimed that the TV channel owed him CZK 1.7 billion (US$77.7 million) and attempted to prove this with forged promissory notes and the testimony of the television's former director, who is also serving time for lying and participating in the scheme.

In the Kuciak case, "Kočner's acquittal, however, is not, according to the court, a decision on his innocence,” Judge Ružena Sabová said. He was only acquitted for lack of evidence.

Defendants Darko Dragič and Dušan Kracina, both accused of complicity in the preparation of the murders of Slovak prosecutors Maroš Žilinka and Petr Šufliarský, were also brought to the courtroom along with Kočner.

Kracina received eight years for accepting a contract for the murder of Žilinka, who had impeded one of Kočner's businesses. Dragic, on the other hand, was acquitted. He claimed he just pretended that he planned to murder the prosecutors. In fact, he was just after the deposit he got for the murder.

Both the prosecution and the lawyers of the victim families immediately appealed the ruling in the Kuciak case.

"I promised both children that they will get justice," said Zlata Kušnírová, the mother of murdered Martina. "They have done nothing wrong, and those who did wrong can go on. It's a disgrace. The whole justice system," she added.

Roman Kvasnica, the lawyer for the Kuciaks and Zlata Kušnírová said that he sees Zsuzsová’s sentence as a positive result. “Now all we have to do is prove Kočner's guilt. We will continue to fight."