Ever since Dr. Daniel Malakov was gunned down in cold blood right in front of his daughter more than a year ago, the Uzbek immigrant’s family had no doubt in their mind that his estranged wife was behind the murder.
On Tuesday afternoon a Queens Supreme Court jury confirmed their suspicions when they found Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova and her distant uncle, Mikhail Mallayev, guilty of murder for hire and conspiracy after a seven−week trial that subjected the family to vivid descriptions of the slaying.
The jury, which consisted of six men and six women, reached a quick verdict that took barely seven hours over two days. The female jury forewoman was in tears when she read the verdict to Queens Supreme Court Justice Robert Hanophy. Borukhova, 35, who was dressed in a tan colored blazer, light gray turtleneck and black skirt with a flower pattern, showed no emotion.
Appearing stone−faced beside her uncle, 51, who was dressed in a black suit, wore a yarmulke and expressed no reaction, Borukhova was taken out of the courtroom in handcuffs as her estranged in−laws rejoiced from their seats.
“God bless America,” shouted Iszra Malakov, Daniel Malakov’s uncle.
Prosecutors contended that Borukhova, an internist and a Bukharian Jewish Uzbek immigrant, hired her relative to shoot Malakov at the Annadale Playground on the morning of Oct. 28, 2007, as payback after he gained custody of their 4−year−old daughter Michelle. Malakov, 34, also an Uzbek immigrant, had custody of the girl for six days before his death and was dropping the girl at the playground to meet her mother.
The couple was engaged in a heated custody dispute for more than two years as part of their divorce proceedings. Borukhova accused Malakov of abusing Michelle, but Queens Family Court found those claims were unfounded.
The jubilation at the guilty verdict spilled outside the Kew Gardens courthouse as Malakov’s relatives, who had openly accused Borukhova from the outset of the murder, pumped their fists in the air and praised the investigators who cracked the case.
“It is good because justice has won,” Khaika Malakov, the victim’s father, said in broken English.
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The defendant’s families, who read from Jewish prayer books as they waited for the verdict, silently left the court house. Sofia Borukhova, who was cited as being part of the murder conspiracy during Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal’s closing arguments, dodged reporters who sought her reaction to the verdict.
Mazoltuv Borukhova, who took the stand in her own defense and insisted that she had no role in the murder, and Mallayev, who did not take the stand, face a maximum of life in prison without parole when they are sentenced April 21.
Joseph Malakov, the victim’s older brother, told reporters outside the Kew Gardens Court house he felt sorry for Borukhova, because she had turned her daughter into an orphan.
“They caused tremendous pain for themselves and also for Michelle,” he said. “We can’t bring our brother back.”
The girl has been living with her paternal uncle, Gavriel, since last April and has been doing fine, according to the Malakovs. During a news conference following the verdict, Queens DA Richard Brown said he, too, felt sympathy for Michelle.
“You’ve got a 4−year−old little girl, who’s forever traumatized by how she witnessed the assassination,” he said. “That which occurred will be forever etched in her memory.”
Brown commended Leventhal’s work during the trial, which included dozens of witnesses, more than 100 pieces of evidence and intense closing arguments.
Mallayev’s fingerprints were matched by NYPD Detective William Bienick to three fingerprints on a makeshift silencer used by the shooter. The silencer came off after the first of three shots fired by Mallayev and he abandoned it at the playground, located at 64th Road and Yellowstone Boulevard, prosecutors said.
School teacher Cheryl Springsteen, who was walking her dog near the playground at the time of the shooting, heard the shots and saw Mallayev kill the dentist. She identified him as the triggerman in a police lineup last year and identified him again in court when she took the stand last month.
“Detective Bienick’s identification of the three fingerprints corroborate the testimony of Cheryl Springsteen,” Leventhal said during his four−hour−long closing arguments Monday.
When questioned by detectives three weeks after the murder, Mallayev, who lived in suburban Atlanta, denied being in New York on Oct. 28, but changed his story when the investigators told him cell phone records placed him in Queens on the day of the murder. The records also showed that Mallayev and Borukhova had 91 phone conversations in the month leading up to the murder but only two following the shooting.
Sixty−five of those conversations took place in the days preceding Malakov’s murder. Leventhal also contended that Borukhova paid her accomplice nearly $20,000 for the kill.
Mallayev, whose home is facing foreclosure, deposited the money into several bank accounts in Brooklyn a week after the shooting.
“He was drowning in debt. A drowning man will take any life preserver thrown to him and she threw $20,000 at him,” Leventhal said during his summation.
When Mazoltuv Borukhova took the stand as the defense’s second−to−last witness she repeatedly denied being part of her estranged husband’s death. She said she was swinging her daughter with Malakov when he was shot and insisted that she did not hear any gunshots or see the gunman despite being feet away from her husband.
Leventhal contended that this was far from what happened that day. During his summation, he accused Borukhova of not being at the crime scene at the time of the shooting.
He noted that several eyewitnesses, including Springsteen, testified that Michelle ran to a woman who they identified as Sofia Borukhova, who was standing next to Malakov when he was shot. The witnesses said they saw a woman who looked like Borukhova run up 64th Road to Malakov’s body after the shooter fled the scene.
Leventhal argued that she arrived late and did not know the silencer failed.
“She didn’t hear the shots because she never expected to hear any shot, because she knew he was going to use a silencer. But she didn’t make it there in time to know it failed,” the prosecutor said.
When asked if he was going to charge Sofia Borukhova, Brown told reporters that his office would review the evidence materials. Khaika Malakov said the DA’s office did a tremendous job so far and praised them for bring justice to his slain son.
“This was a high class work of the prosecution,” he said outside the court before he and his family celebrated the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@t
©2009 Community News Group
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