No Witnesses for Defense in Cold Case of Double Murder — (Brooklyn Daily Eagle)

SSRI Ed note: Lawyers argue that a key prosecution witness has no credibility because he takes Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and other medications.

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Brooklyn Daily Eagle

 by Charles Sweeney (

 Published 08-03-2007

Summations Next in Trial of Two Men Charged with Two 15-Year-Old, Russian Mob-Linked Murders

JAY STREET — After weeks of draining testimony by a host of unsavory characters from the Russian immigrant-dominated Brighton Beach-based criminal underworld, the double murder case currently on trial in Brooklyn Supreme Court’s ceremonial courtroom is entering its final stages.

Despite hints suggesting otherwise, defense attorneys for two men accused of taking part in two 15-year-old Russian mob-linked homicides rested their case yesterday after announcing they wouldn’t call any witnesses to the stand at all, save for the possibility of a federal prison employee on Monday.

David Breitbart and Kenneth Montgomery, attorneys for Marat Krivoi, 33, and Vitaly Ivanitsky, 37, respectively, instead argued yesterday over the extent to which each would be allowed to refer to the prison medical and mental health records of a key prosecution witness.

While a federal inmate, prosecution witness Natan Gozman, 29, underwent treatment by a prison psychiatrist for depression, anxiety and sleep disorders — symptoms related to his incarceration, along with his physical reaction to the abrupt discontinuation of his admitted use of heroin and cocaine. After zealously perusing the mental health regime undertaken by Gozman while he was waiting to testify, Breitbart discovered records detailing Gozman’s consumption of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics and anti-anxiety medications — including Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and other medications.

Hoping to compromise Gozman’s credibility as a witness, Breitbart argued before state Supreme Court Justice Albert Tomei that he should be allowed to refer to these medical records, documents Gozman signed which outline his widely-varying medication regimen.

Tomei allowed Breitbart to use redacted versions of select documents — specifically, those signed by Gozman that detail the medication prescribed, along with possible side effects from both directed use and from abrupt discontinuation.

Life in the ‘Brigade’
Facing up to seven life sentences in connection with the death of a Russian-émigré boxing champ, Gozman became a witness for prosecutors after striking a deal with federal authorities — in exchange for his testimony against Ivanitsky and Krivoi, Gozman would receive consideration at his upcoming sentencing for murder and kidnapping.

Gozman’s testimony earlier this week recounted for jurors so-called incriminating statements Ivanitsky allegedly made to him during a car ride the two shared in the days after the murder of 21-year-old Boris Roitman.

A criminal cohort and fellow member of a notorious Brighton Beach criminal gang known as the “Brigade,” Roitman’s shot-up corpse was found in a remote part of Gravesend near the Coney Island subway yard after a 911 call from a witness who has since vanished. His body was discovered lying on a weedy pathway snaking between a covered tennis court and an apartment complex.

Roitman’s murder was allegedly ordered by Krivoi and carried out by Pyotr Sarkisov, 32, another key prosecution witness whose testimony at the trial two weeks ago was secured after an agreement with federal authorities for favorable sentencing consideration on an unrelated racketeering case. Sarkisov’s testimony also implicated Ivanitsky, whom he said acted as a lookout from his position only yards away from the scene of the crime.

Gozman, in contrast, played no part in Roitman’s slaying. Nor did he have anything to do with the second murder; the death of 19-year-old Vietnamese pool hustler Thien Diep — who was murdered to avoid reprisal from his uncle’s powerful Chinatown-based gang. Fearing Diep’s body would be discovered, Sarkisov, Ivanitsky and Krivoi allegedly drove to an empty lot in Canarsie and set Diep’s car ablaze with the victim’s corpse in the back seat, according to Sarkisov’s account at trial.

Missing Witness
Since the witness who placed the 911 call could not be located, defense attorneys had hoped to introduce a copy of a police report containing an officer’s summary of his statement, taken in the immediate aftermath of Roitman’s murder. Justice Tomei, however, ruled the statement hearsay, and would not allow it into evidence.

In the 15 years since the crime, the witness, known only as “Karpaty,” was traced to Florida, where he’d given an interview to federal agents in 2005, after Sarkisov’s information re-ignited interest in the cold case.

Since that interview, the only sign of Karpaty has been his car — found abandoned in an airport parking lot. A former special forces member of the Hungarian Army who fled the country after the unsuccessful 1956 anti-Soviet revolution, some believe Karpaty retired and returned to his native land since the political winds have changed.

In his interview with federal agents in 2005, Karpaty essentially echoed what he’d told a 911 operator in 1992 and moments later also told an NYPD officer from the 60th Precinct. He said he saw what he described as “two Hispanic men” fire two shots, run to their getaway car and speed away. One of the men had been carrying a shotgun reaching down to his ankle, Karpaty reported.

Though some say Karpaty’s statement favors the defense, his description of “two Hispanic men” is not too far from the physical appearance of both Krivoi and Sarkisov, both of whom at the time had dark hair and were similar in height and weight to the men Karpaty described.

On Monday, Tomei has scheduled the final witness — a woman who prosecutors say will testify to the location of a gas station near where Diep’s burned body was discovered inside his torched automobile.

After her testimony, attorneys from both sides will deliver their final remarks to both juries sitting on this case (one jury for each defendant), starting with Ivanitsky’s attorney, Kenneth Montgomery.

Once summations are complete, Tomei will charge jurors on certain issues of evidence, followed by an instruction on the law, before sending them into the jury room to begin their deliberations.

© Brooklyn Daily Eagle 2007
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