The courtroom drama of Mazoltuv Borukhova and Mikhail Mallayev, who were sentenced on Tuesday to life in prison without parole
, ended as dramatically and contentiously as it began, with references to Confucius, the Ten Commandments and 2,500 years of family history.
Moments before Justice Robert J. Hanophy imposed the maximum sentence in State Supreme Court in Queens, Mr. Mallayev, who was convicted of gunning down Dr. Borukhova’s estranged husband, Daniel Malakov, 34, in front of the couple’s 4-year-old daughter in a Forest Hills playground, rose to speak publicly for the first time.
“I didn’t kill nobody in my life,” he said in a deep voice.
“I live by the Ten Commandments. You both laugh on that,” he said, accusing the judge and prosecutor in broken English of mocking his piety. “I feel comfortable with myself. I’m good in front of myself and in front of God.”
Dr. Borukhova, 35, an internist who was convicted of ordering Mr. Mallayev to kill her husband after a judge awarded him temporary custody of their daughter, Michelle, quietly repeated what she had said on the witness stand: “I had nothing to do with this murder. I didn’t kill anybody. I had nothing to do with it. That’s all, your honor.”
Justice Hanophy then sentenced each defendant to life without parole for first-degree murder, with an additional 8 1/3 to 25 years, to run consecutively, for conspiracy in the second degree. Mr. Mallayev, 51, was also sentenced to 15 years for illegal possession of a weapon, to run concurrently with the life sentence.
In his sentencing, Justice Hanophy offered his own twist on religion, which had played a continuing role in the trial, in part because the defendants told the police that they were observant Jews who would not take part in a killing.
“Mr. Mallayev, you took the 20,000 pieces of silver to murder Dr. Malakov,” the judge said, referring to the $20,000 that prosecutors say Dr. Borukhova paid for the killing. “You say you’re a religious man. There’s a man in the New Testament who says, ‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loseth his soul?’ ”
Turning to Dr. Borukhova, he said, “You set out on a journey for revenge because a judge had the temerity to give custody of your child to your husband.”
Quoting Confucius, he said, “A person who sets out on a path of revenge should first dig two graves.” He continued, saying that while her husband was already in his grave, “you are about to enter your eight-by-eight above-ground grave, where you will spend the rest of your natural life.”
“Your daughter,” he added, “is now without a father and for all practical purposes without a mother. What a legacy to leave to your daughter.”
Both defendants plan to appeal. Stephen P. Scaring, the lawyer for Dr. Borukhova, said the judge’s words and actions showed bias against the defendants.
Mr. Scaring had made a motion to overturn the conviction, reached in March, based on judicial bias, arguing in part that at one point, the judge, who wanted the trial to end in time for his vacation, had effectively asked the defendants to choose between appearing in court on the Sabbath and giving their lawyers equal time to prepare their closing arguments.
The judge eventually decided that asking them to come in on the Sabbath could violate their religious rights and did not hold court on the Sabbath — but that meant the prosecution had all weekend to prepare its closings, while the defense had to prepare them overnight.
Mr. Scaring noted that the judge initially dismissed his motion to set aside the conviction without even hearing the prosecution’s response.
Justice Hanophy told him in the courtroom, “That was purely a mistake,” adding, “Everyone is human.”
The district attorney, Richard A. Brown, said he hoped the sentencing would bring an end of the affair to the small community of Bukharian Jews in Queens. The families of all those involved in the case belong to the community, which has been split by the murder and the prosecution.
Dr. Borukhova and Dr. Malakov, a dentist, had both been considered proud immigrant success stories among the Bukharian Jews, who trace their roots back 2,500 years in Central Asia.
Although prosecutors had suggested in court that other members of Dr. Borukhova’s family might have known about the murder plans, Mr. Brown said there would be no further prosecutions. “My hope is that the child will be spared the trauma of any continued efforts in that regard,” he said.
Dr. Malakov’s brother, Gabriel Malakov, who has custody of Michelle, and his father, Khaika, said the family would now turn its attention to raising her — to teaching her music, sports and to be a good person.
“I have an important responsibility, beyond that, an ethical obligation to say nothing bad about the mother, nothing bad about anybody to Michelle,” Gabriel Malakov said.
Before the sentencing, Khaika Malakov made an emotional statement to the court.
“The punishment of these killers should be so high that such Mallayevs and such Borukhovas will never again be allowed to commit such a crazy act.”
Mr. Mallayev objected to the reference to his family name.
Addressing Mr. Malakov, he said, “In 2,500 years, nobody ever killed nobody,” he said, “and you know it.”