By Ivan Pereira
A jury began deliberations Thursday in the criminal case against a Forest Hills mother who allegedly threatened the brother of slain orthodontist Daniel Malakov.
The prosecution and defense gave the jury their closing arguments in Natella Natanova's witness tampering case after swiftly putting three witnesses on the stand Wednesday.
Gavril Malakov was the first to face the jury, and he recollected how Natanova, the sister of his brother's suspected murder plotter, Mazoltuv Borukhova, threatened to kill him in March.
“I felt extremely scared and frightened,” Gavril Malakov said.
Borukhova and her distant uncle, Mikhail Mallayev, are pending trial for murder and conspiracy charges in the Oct. 28 shooting of Daniel Malakov outside the Annadale Playground in Forest Hills. Malakov, an Uzbek immigrant, was dropping off his then 4-year-old daughter, Michelle, to visit her mother, Borukhova, because he had recently gained custody from his estranged wife.
On March 3, Gavril Malakov, 34, said he was walking from his private physical therapy office at 105-29 64th Road to his house on 66th Avenue when Natanova, also an Uzbek immigrant, accosted him. The mother of five allegedly told Gavril Malakov in their native Russian, “You do know if you talk, you'll be the next to go.”
Gavril said he ran home and called the police, who arrested Natanova the next day.
Her attorney, Melvyn Roth, challenged Gavril Malakov's credibility during his summation, noting that he has spoken openly to the media about his hatred of the Borukhovas long before any of them had been arrested.
“The defense in this case is that this never happened. There is hatred, there is animosity between these two families,” Roth said.
Assistant District Attorney Brad Leventhal countered the defense's claim by reminding the jury that this was not the first time Gavril Malakov had been threatened by his brother's in-laws.
During his testimony, Gavril Malakov told the jury the events that took place outside his brother's Forest Hills house Oct. 22, when Michelle was being transferred into his custody. As the girl was being dropped off, he said Natanova's mother, Esta, punched him in the back and threatened to kill him and his family.
“Did his brother have anything to fear before he was shot dead?” the prosecutor asked.
Borukhova's family law attorney, Florence Fass, the defense's only witness, confirmed that Esta did assault Gavril, but did not threaten him. Natanova did not take the stand in her own defense.
If convicted, she faces up to four years in prison.
Borukhova and Mallayev's trial is set to begin this fall. If convicted on their charges, both face life in prison without parole.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 146.