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Vega skirts 2nd conviction, faces another murder trial

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A Flushing drug dealer who had been acquitted in May on charges of killing a police officer dodged another conviction Sunday when a Queens jury deadlocked in deliberations over whether he had committed a second murder in 1996 in Kissena Park.

Henry Vega, 35, of Flushing, who is serving 92 years to life on drug charges, will face a new murder trial that is scheduled to begin Thursday after Supreme Court Justice Randall Eng declared a mistrial.

Assistant District Attorneys Brad Leventhal and Patricia Malloy called three witnesses to the stand, all of whom testified that Vega had confessed to killing 27-year-old Tommy Hill in Kissena Park on Nov. 5, 1996 during a drug deal.

Vega’s attorney, Jonathan Latimer III, called no witnesses in the Flushing man’s defense.

Before sending the case to the jury, Eng told the 12 men and women to ignore Vega’s reputation in deciding his fate.

“The fact that this defendant allegedly committed other crimes must not be considered by you,” he said.

The deliberations, which began last Thursday afternoon and ended Sunday, lasted nearly as long as the trial, which began Jan. 9 and was recessed for a day.

According to the prosecution, Hill tried to buy cocaine from Vega and Alfred Augugliaro in a Flushing bar on Nov. 5, 1996. Vega and Augugliaro then took Hill to nearby Kissena Park, robbed him and shot him dead, said Leventhal.

Augugliaro is currently in jail awaiting trial in connection with Hill’s death.

In May 2001, Vega was acquitted of the murder of Police Officer George Scheu. In that case, Assistant District Attorney Daniel Saunders contended Vega confessed to murdering Scheu outside his Flushing home in 1987 when Scheu, who was off-duty at the time, caught him trying to break into a Mercedes-Benz.

Vega is currently serving a prison sentence of 92 years to life for having sold over a pound of cocaine, worth more than $100,000 to undercover officers posing as owners of a Flushing nightclub on four separate occasions. Vega was convicted on Nov. 28, 2000.

Prosecutors said they found evidence of Vega’s involvement in the two murders during the narcotics investigation that led to his conviction.

According to Saunders, Vega told undercover narcotics investigators that he killed Scheu before he was arrested on drug charges.

Later, during the investigation of Scheu’s murder, prosecutors came across the three witnesses who would later testify that Vega also confessed to killing Hill.

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

Updated 10:26 am, October 12, 2011
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