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Flushing drug dealer gets 25 years for 1996 killing

Henry Vega, Flushing’s notorious drug dealer, last week was given the maximum sentence of 25 years to life for the 1996 murder of a Middle Village man after several members of the victim’s family rebuked the killer.

State Supreme Court Judge Randall Eng in Kew Gardens imposed the sentence on Vega, 35, for killing Tommy Hill in Kissena Park. On Nov. 5, 1996 Vega had lured Hill, 29, into the park, robbed him and killed him in a drug-related dispute over money, the Queens district attorney said.

It was Vega’s fourth felony trial in as many years, and he is already serving a sentence of 92 years to life for selling more than a pound of cocaine to undercover police officers. Prosecutor Brad Leventhal called Vega “a career criminal.”

Before Eng handed down his sentence, members of Hill’s family were allowed to take the stand and speak directly to Tommy Hill’s killer.

“He’s an animal,” Robert Hill, the brother of Vega’s victim told the court. “He’s a predator. And that’s all he is.”

Robert Hill said “he deserves every minute, every day, every minute you give him.”

Tommy Hill’s father, John Hill, took the stand and stared at Vega.

“I notice your mommy is here,” he said, referring to Vega’s mother who sat in the courtroom with some of his other relatives. “You made a baby. Tom didn’t have a chance to make a baby.”

Vega’s attorney, Jonathan Latimer III, objected to John Hill’s address to his client. But after conferring with Eng, John Hill was allowed to continue.

The father chastised Vega as a coward, referring to the prosecution’s assertion that his son had been shot from behind.

“Who’s the tough guy who shot him in the back?” asked John Hill.

Leventhal described the sequence of events that led to the death of Tommy Hill on Nov. 5, 1996. He said Tommy Hill, who was drunk, was lured into Kissena Park by Vega along with Alfred Augugliaro. Vega, whom Leventhal described as being “familiar” with Tommy Hill, told him to come into the park so that they could urinate.

“The defendant used that trust, used that familiarity to kill Tommy Hill,” said Leventhal.

Latimer was then given the chance to speak on behalf of his client.

“Whatever the reason you choose to accept, law enforcement officers were out to get him,” he said. “I have never seen a weaker case in the prosecution of a homicide.”

Leventhal called three witnesses who testified that Vega had told them that he had killed Tommy Hill. But Eng said he did not think Latimer’s argument was relevant.

“The quality of the proof is something in the hands of the jury,” the judge said.

Eng said the jury’s guilty verdict differed from the outcome of Vega’s trial for the 1987 murder of Police Officer George Scheu. Although Leventhal had shown a videotape in which Vega was shown confessing to the crime, the jury acquitted him in May 2001.

Vega declined to make any comments on his own behalf. The only time his voice was heard in the courtroom was when he quietly answered several yes or no questions.

The trial marked the second time Vega had been tried for the murder of Tommy Hill. In January, a trial in which the same witnesses appeared resulted in a hung jury, and Eng declared a mistrial.

Augugliaro’s trial for his alleged connection to Tommy Hill’s death was scheduled to begin Monday.

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300 Ext. 141.

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