David J. Neal
A former Weston doctor has been sentenced to community control probation after strangling his girlfriend in 2018, and, two months later, shooting his father.
Rafael Azulay, 47, signed a plea bargain after pleading no contest to domestic battery by strangulation and homicide-manslaughter by culpable negligence. He’ll be on probation until Feb. 17, 2034, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.
He’ll spend two years on house arrest at 8738 SW 51st Pl. with his mother, Dina Azulay, in a Cooper City house that Broward County property records say his sister Rina Azulay bought in December. He’ll then spend other 10 years on probation, concurrent with the one year of probation for the domestic battery.
Azulay also must surrender the medical license since 2003, which his Florida Department of Health profile says is already “null and void,” meaning it expired after he didn’t renew his status for two renewal cycles. The state took no action to remove his license.
Rafael Azulay shot his father, Asher Azulay, dead on May 12, 2018 before trying and failing to take his own life by shooting himself in the head. He later shot himself in the stomach as police arrived.
That incident occurred while he was out on bond after a March 2018 arrest on domestic violence charges, felony domestic violence battery-strangulation and misdemeanor battery, the third such arrest for violence against his girlfriend.
The arrest report on the battery said his girlfriend told police she hadn’t cooperated after previous arrests against Azulay because he’d said he would “bring her to her mother in a body bag” and he had a gun.
The report also said: “He also warned her he will never go back to jail and will take as many people down as [necessary] before going back to jail.”
Saturday, the now-ex-girlfriend told the Miami Herald she felt the Broward State Attorney’s Office mishandled the case and, “Had I known (the result), I wouldn’t have testified. This is the reason many victims of domestic violence don’t cooperate” with authorities.
Asked how safe she feels now that Azulay’s out, she said, “I’m making plans to change my name and move out of the state.”
She said she hasn’t slept well since the Broward State Attorney’s Office told her in December that a plea deal would be offered if Azulay’s competency would be established.
Why this plea deal?
The Broward State Attorney’s Office closeout memo says there were numerous problems with the domestic violence charges, including no independent witnesses to rebut the defense’s claim that the injuries were from the girlfriend’s seizures and Azulay just tried to give medical aid.
Also, “given the victim’s history, it was also unknown if the victim would actually appear and testify against the defendant if called to do so at trial.”
The closeout memo also says some of her behavior would be problematic at trial, including being in contact with Azulay after his arrest and release once he posted $50,000 bond.
But, ultimately, the closeout memo says, the maximum sentence Azulay could get is five years in prison on felony domestic violence battery and 364 days in county jail on misdemeanor battery charge. Azulay didn’t have a criminal record and already been behind bars or hospitalized for four years.
As for the second degree murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charges from the death of Asher Azulay, Dina Azulay was the only witness.
The original arrest paperwork said Dina Azulay told investigators her son asked her and her husband over to find the charger for his ankle monitor. When they got there, Rafael Azulay had a gun and declared he was going to kill both of them, then kill himself. He shot Asher Azulay, but Dina was able to escape and call 911.
The closeout memo says, “Subsequent to the filing of the case, Dina Azulay appeared in court at a number of hearings, shouting at the Judge that this was an accident, he didn’t meant to shoot his father, that he hadn’t threatened her with a gun and that she did not want to prosecute.”
Having to try the case with Dina Azulay as a hostile witness who blamed his actions on drug usage and the domestic violence charge, the closeout memo said, “the State’s ability to meet its burden would be significantly hindered.”
What does Azulay understand and remember?
Azulay has been in the South Florida Evaluation and Treatment Center and Broward County jail while his competency to stand trial was being decided. In the case’s online docket, there are 10 entries for competency/psychological evaluation, all of which are prevented from public view. The last one was on Aug. 3, 2021.
“The defendant’s ability to testify relevantly was unacceptable,” Dr. Barton James wrote in a Nov. 19, 2020 evaluation that noted “memory deficiency and difficulties with concentration and attention.”
James, hired by Azulay’s attorney, Hilliard Moldof, also wrote that Azulay appeared to understand the seriousness of the charges against him and “appeared to understand the plea bargain process.”