Thursday, July 31, 2008

Not Guilty Verdict in Witness Tampering Trial

Woman Charged With Threatening Slain Dentist’s Brother

By Conor Greene

The woman accused of threatening the brother of murdered dentist Daniel Malakov has been cleared of witness tampering.

Following nearly two full days of deliberations, a jury on Friday found Natella Natanova not guilty on charges of third degree witness intimidation and tampering. The jurors reached their decision just after 5 p.m. Friday, about two hours after they had warned the judge that they were having difficulty reaching a verdict.

Natanova was charged in March after Gavril Malakov told police that she had approached him at the intersection of 108th Street and 65th Avenue in Forest Hills and said to him, “You should know if you talk, you will be the next to go.” She was facing up to four years in prison if convicted on the charges.

Natanova’s sister, Mazoltuv Borukhova, is accused of hiring a distant relative to gun down her ex-husband, Daniel Malakov, at a local playground last October. That trial is expected to begin this fall.

“We’re pleased with the verdict and think it was the right thing for the jury,” said attorney Melvyn Roth, who represented Natanova. “Obviously they thought that he wasn’t credible, and didn’t believe him.”

Roth noted that Gavril Malakov was granted custody of five-year-old Michelle after the girl’s father was murdered and her mother was charged in the crime. During the deliberations, jurors revisited Malakov’s testimony stating that he had informed investigators from the city’s Administration for Children’s Services about Natanova’s arrest.

“The whole thing was fabricated,” said Roth. “He had a motive not to tell the truth because there was an investigation by ACS to determine who would get custody of the young child. Ultimately, Mr. Malakov, the supposed victim here, got custody, and we told the jury that his motive to make up the fabrication was so that my client didn’t get custody.

The office of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown did not respond to a message seeking comment on the verdict. Roth speculated that the charges were only brought against Natanova in the first place because of the high profile murder charges pending against her sister. “I think it was the reason the DA brought the charges in the first place, but I think [the jury] judged this case independently.”

According to Roth, Natanova claimed throughout that the incident had never occurred and that she was just walking to her building. “My client says that she never saw him on the street,” the attorney said.

In the murder case expected to begin this fall, prosecutors are charging that Borukhova paid a relative $19,500 to have her ex-husband Daniel Malakov shot in the chest. The popular orthodontist had just arrived at Annadale Playground on that Sunday morning to drop Michelle off for a custody visit with her mother when he was murdered.

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