Family is ‘more hopeful than ever’ – Smith case closer to an indictment?

An indictment in the murder of Greenwich resident George Smith could be closer than ever thanks to what a family attorney is calling “an incriminating videotape.”

According to a report in the new edition of Greenwich Magazine, the videotape, which is now believed to be in the hands of the FBI, is of “persons of interest” in the case. The videotape was reportedly shot by three Russian American men who were last seen with Mr. Smith: Gregory Rozenberg, of Boca Raton, Fla.; his cousin Zachary, and their friend, Rostilav “Rusty” Kofman, both of Brooklyn, N.Y. Allegedly the men filmed themselves shortly after Mr. Smith went missing, joked about his death, and one of them is believed to have made a self- incriminating statement on the videotape.

Another man who was among this group last seen with Mr. Smith, but apparently not on the videotape, is Josh Askin of Laguna Hills, Calif.

Mr. Smith went missing in the Aegean Sea from his Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise in July 2005. No charges have ever been filed in his death. However, the Smith family is now “more hopeful than ever that there will be justice for George,” according to a statement e-mailed to the Post from George’s father, George; his mother, Maureen; and sister, Bree.

“Recently revealed evidence regarding the actions and statements of those last seen with George has provided us with a better understanding of the events surrounding our son and brother’s murder on his Royal Caribbean honeymoon cruise,” the Smith family’s statement said. “We believe that the potential change of venue from Connecticut to New York for George’s murder investigation could be very beneficial given that several of the people last seen with George reside in New York … We are grateful for the perseverance and hard work of our attorneys, Mike Jones and his colleagues at Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, as well as Attorney Gene Riccio for the past six years.”

In an interview with the Post, Mr. Jones, an attorney with Ivey, Barnum & O’Mara, verified the existence of the videotape. “I found out about the tape about one year ago from the in-house lawyers at Royal Caribbean,” he said. “The tape is a strong piece of circumstantial evidence. When it is taken in the context of the other information we have obtained, it begins to clarify what happened to George Smith the night he was killed.”

Mr. Jones also said another new development in the case is that New York FBI agents and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York may join the investigation into Mr. Smith’s disappearance. Until now, the case has been investigated by the New Haven FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“There is a possibility the case will be moved to the proper venue, the Southern District of New York, which means the investigation will be focusing hard on the best suspects in the case, who reside in New York City and Florida,” Mr. Jones told the Post. “The case has not been transferred yet. If it is transferred, I believe we will move closer to an indictment.”

Greenwich Magazine’s cover story, which hit stands Friday, May 25, quotes Mr. Jones as saying, “Based on the existing evidence and new information we’ve been able to uncover, I think we’re getting closer to an indictment.” The story was written by town resident Tim Dumas, known for his extensive past reporting on the Martha Moxley murder in town.

Greenwich Magazine also reports that Mr. Smith, or his wife, Jennifer Hagel Smith, were overheard saying they had a large amount of cash from wedding gifts with them, leading to speculation that robbery was the motive in Mr. Smith’s disappearance. Also, when the four persons of interest escorted Mr. Smith back to his room on the night he went missing, Mr. Askin reportedly was “making a big deal of using the bathroom in the Smith cabin … as if suggesting he was in no position to see anything, if there was anything to see.”

When asked about this by the Post, Mr. Jones said, “The evidence suggests, and a theory could be put forth, that Josh made a big deal about using the bathroom because he was trying to make it appear he was not physically in the bedroom area of George’s cabin when discussions about robbing George might have taken place. If he was in the room and participated in the discussions, he could be viewed as an accessory. The constant and almost comical references by Josh and his defense counsel in the national media regarding his trip to the bathroom beg the question, why is that information so critical?”

Thomas Carson, a spokesman for the New Haven FBI and Department of Justice, declined comment on the case.

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