Courtroom dramas

March 10, 2009 2:14:32 PM PDT
Madoff and Malakov.

Sounds like a Broadway play.

But the stage for these dramas is a courtroom. And we're covering both tonight.

We'll begin with the Malakov part of the drama. Daniel Malakov was a dentist from Queens, who was shot and killed a year and a half ago in a playground in Queens. His daughter, four years old at the time, was next to him.

Today, his ex-wife, Mazoltuv Borukhova, and her distant cousin, Mikhail Mallayev, were found guilty of murder.

It took the jury an hour and a half of deliberations last night, and just a handful of hours today to reach its verdict.

They each face 25 years to life.

Today, the jury seemed to be digging deep into the cast, asking to examine a series of exhibits: Photos of Malakov's corpse, all telephone records, fingerprint exhibits, Mallayev's medical records and his bank statements.

What these queries meant were pretty much impossible to decipher.

I have usually found trying to read anything into a jury's questions is nigh impossible. It's an entertaining exercise, tea-leaf-reading -- but it usually gets you nowhere. My favorite reporter question to an attorney waiting for a jury to deliberate: "Is longer better?"

Clearly, this jury did not deliberate "longer."

Borukhova and Malakov were in the middle of a nasty custody battle. Their little girl was with her father at a playground when he was gunned down. Borukhova was also nearby -- say prosecutors -- because she was trying to videotape Mallayev shooting her ex-husband, so she'd have ammunition in case of any kind of double cross by her distant cousin.

Talk about family feud.

One other interesting note: prosecutors claim there were about 60 phone calls right before the killing between Borukhova and Mallayev. And none after.

Just coincidence? Clearly, the jury didn't think so. We'll have reaction, tonight at 11.

Although, frankly, the only reaction that really matters is what happens to that poor little girl, who saw her father murdered, and whose mother will now be behind bars.

Now to the Madoff drama. Bernie Madoff appeared in court today -- the latest spectacle in what has been a non-stop spectacle. The man accused of running a $50 billion Ponzi scheme, spoke in open court to waive any potential conflict between him and his lawyer. More on that in a moment.

The news today was that Madoff is expected to plead guilty on Thursday to 11 counts - and face 150 years in prison. He's now 70 years old.

Still to be decided: what happens to Madoff's $7 million penthouse on the Upper East Side, and to the more than $60 million his wife insists is hers to keep. Hard to imagine a plea deal doesn't involve some sort of "pass" for his wife and his two sons, who worked in the business, although given that no trades were made for 13 years, it seems a bit ludicrous to call Madoff's firm a "business."

We're told Madoff will NOT be sentenced Thursday; and in fact it could be months before he's sent to prison.

Meanwhile, Madoff says no problem with keeping his attorney, Ira Sorkin -- even though Sorkin has nearly $19,000 invested through a retirement account with Madoff. And Sorkin's relatives apparently had more than $900,000 invested with Madoff's firm. Nobody seems to think this will represent any kind of conflict - although it's hard to see where the lawyer might not be at least a little bit compromised. Torn at the least.

Just for the fun of it, put yourself in that position: Your relatives invested nearly $1 million with a guy accused of being a con artist. And you're defending him. Would you want to? Would you worry that your Uncle Joe or Cousin Sally might put the slightest squeeze on you to put them at the front of the line for any money that might be found? Would you be more concerned about your investments than the welfare of your client? I'm just sayin'. Seems a slam dunk conflict of interest to me, but I'm no lawyer.

We'll have the latest on the Madoff drama, tonight at 11.

Speaking of money - the best line of the day comes from New York Times reporter Clyde Haberman, who suggests that because the Mets want to mirror the old Dodgers' ballpark in Brooklyn for their new stadium, and because it's called Citi Field because of the major corporate sponsorship by Citigroup, which, although it said it ran profitably recently, is in to the taxpayers for billions of dollars - because of all that, the Mets should call their new park "Debits Field."

Love it.

And we're taking a look at the new intensity by which many college student applicants are now trying to secure financial aid. With the economy tanking, the tuition that many parents thought was secure in the stock market, has in many cases evaporated. Now, applying for financial aid has become as, well, as difficult and as vital as getting into college itself. Our education reporter Art McFarland has our story.

We'll also have any breaking news of the night, plus Lee Goldberg's AccuWeather forecast, and Scott Clark with the night's sports. I hope you can join Liz Cho and me, tonight at 11.

BILL RITTER


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