Has tobacco titan Dimitri Rozenman, convicted earlier this year of plotting to kill his wife and her family, scored a new trial?
That might be the result of Judge Kristin Hoffman's decision to vacate judgment in the Rozenman case.
Rozenman, the owner of a lucrative web of online and retail cigar outlets, was sentenced to life in prison in April of this year. But Judge Hoffman ruled on November 22 that a police audio recording of Rozenman's conversation with a state witness was not properly disclosed to Rozenman's attorney Ulises Ferragut.
Rozenman, 40, will appear in court on December 9 for a case management conference before Judge Hoffman. County Attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb told me that the C.A.'s office has moved that the judge reconsider her decision. He would not speculate as to what the CA's office would do if Hoffman declines the motion.
If she declines, according to defense attorneys I've spoken with, the C.A. could appeal her ruling on vacating the judgment, cut a deal with Rozenman, or go back to trial for round two. (Note: Please see update below.)
I've reported on the Rozenman affair in relation to the work of Phoenix PD's Career Criminal Squad. Those detectives collared Rozenman in February of 2009. Purportedly, Rozenman's motivation at the time was revenge and loathing because his wife had scored a massive divorce settlement from him.
The issue at hand involves one of three recordings made of Rozenman's conversation with state witness Levi Nejar. Detectives in the case asserted to the court that there had been only two recordings made.
But there was another, a third, that was a of superior quality, referred to as the "Hawk" recording. What is said in the three recordings has been the subject of different claims by the prosecution and the defense.
In her 10-page minute entry on the matter, Hoffman concludes that, "Though it was inadvertent, material evidence was not disclosed."
She labels the Hawk recording Brady material, evidence that under law must be turned over to defense counsel.
Hoffman did not rule that this was "new" evidence, and insists that Rozenman "did not make any exculpatory statements" not contained on the other recordings.
"The court does not conclude that availability of the [third] recording would probably have altered the verdict at trial," Hoffman asserts.
Yet, she also states that the fact that the recording was not properly disclosed "undermines the court's confidence in the outcome of this trial." And she grants Ferragut's motion to vacate because of the Brady violation.
Based on Hoffman's minute entry, it seems Ferragut outwitted the prosecution, which was unaware of the third recording and insisted there were only two recordings involved. Hoffman reveals that the existence of the recording was indicated in a supplement to the Phoenix Police Department's report disclosed to the defense.
"In addition," writes Hoffman, "the [third] recording was made available to the defense attorney at the Phoenix Police Department Property Management Bureau...on January 7, 2010 when it was checked out on that date."
Despite this, the Phoenix PD asserted there were only two recordings, and based on this assertion, the prosecutor did likewise.
Ferragut has certainly earned his paycheck. He was the trial attorney for Rozenman, and presumably will be so again, if a new trial is the outcome of the legal wranglings involved.
Ferragut even attempted to get Rozenman declared indigent so court transcripts could be obtained at county expense.
Hoffman didn't go for that one, noting that, "In his financial statement Defendant [lists] real property assets with a net value of at least $900,000.00."
I'll check out the December 9 hearing, and report back on what transpires. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Hoffman's ruling on the motion to reconsider was just filed. She denied it.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.