By Ivan Pereira
More than 15 months after Dr. Daniel Malakov was gunned down in a cold-blooded hit allegedly plotted by his estranged wife and family, the murder trial commenced Wednesday with lively opening statements by the prosecution and defense.
Both sides used the police’s investigation into the Oct. 28, 2007, shooting as the crux of their respective arguments as to whether or not Dr. Mazoltuv Borukhova and her uncle Mikhail Mallayev plotted to shoot the Uzbek orthodontist at the Annadale Playground in Forest Hills.
In his statement, which lasted a little more than an hour, prosecutor Brad Leventhal told the jury that Borukhova, 35, who is also an Uzbek immigrant, had hired Mallayev to shoot Malakov, 34, after she lost custody of their then-4-year-old daughter Michelle. The couple had been going through a bitter divorce and a Queens Family Court placed Michelle in the custody of her father six days before he was shot.
Leventhal said Borukhova and Mallayev, 51, had 91 phone conversations during the three weeks before the murder, and that 68 of them took place within a week of the shooting.
“Why would she hire a relative to come to a place of her choosing and kill Daniel Malakov?” Leventhal asked. “She accomplished what she failed to do after years of litigation: To permanently and forever deprive Daniel of having a relationship with his little girl.”
The assistant district attorney noted that Borukhova told detectives that she did not hear any gunshots even though she was just feet from her husband when he was shot. In addition, Mallayev’s fingerprints matched three fingerprints found on a makeshift silencer left at the scene by the shooter, according to Leventhal.
“On that morning, that crisp fall air was polluted by the lead and sulfur from the bullets that came from the defendant’s gun,” he said.
Mallayev’s court-appointed attorney, Michael Siff, said the police investigation was questionable because of Malakov’s popular status in the Forest Hills Bukharian community. Immediately after the murder, Malakov’s family and friends openly blamed the Borukhovas for plotting the murder.
“They wanted Dr. Borukhova so bad that they went about getting her by getting to my client,” Siff said about the police.
Stephen Scaring, Borukhova’s attorney, also reiterated Siff’s argument during his opening statement.
“You be careful when you hear witnesses try to spin evidence to make it look like she lied,” he told the jury.
Scaring also rebuffed Leventhal’s arguments about his client’s interview where she claimed not to hear the shots, claiming her “focus was to … see her child.” He also said his client tried to administer CPR to Malakov before an ambulance arrived.
If convicted on first-degree murder and conspiracy charges, both Mallayev and Borukhova face up to life in prison without parole.
Family members of the defendants declined to comment after the proceedings.
The prosecution’s first witness, Police Officer Thomas Daniele, the first to arrive at the scene, testified that he heard the gunshot from 65th Avenue, a block away from the playground. When he arrived at the scene moments later, he said that Borukhova did not start attempting CPR on her estranged husband until nearly a minute after he started questioning witnesses.
“She told me to call 911. She seemed a little upset,” he recalled.
As the officer went through an evidence bag containing Daniel Malakov’s blood-stained shirt, his father, Khaika Malakov, broke down in tears.
Malakov, who watched the day's proceedings with nearly a dozen family and friends, said the trial was emotionally wrenching for him.
“I don’t know how I can take this,” he said outside the court room.