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Flusing man loses appeal on drug sentence

Henry Vega, 39, formerly of Flushing, lost a motion to appeal his Nov. 28, 2000 drug conviction last week in front of New York State Court of Appeals Judge George Bundy Smith. Vega is serving a sentence of 92 years to life in prison.The ruling is the latest round of court appearances for Vega, who was also convicted of second-degree murder on March 6, 2002, and was sentenced to 25 years to life to be served consecutively with his drug sentence.If he had won the decision, he would have been resentenced for 12 to 24 years for each conviction, amounting to a minimum of 48 years in prison."I am not surprised by today's decision. As the court noted, the defendant was convicted of serious drug trafficking offenses and has a long and violent criminal history, including convictions for homicide and a prior felony drug sale to an undercover officer," Brown said. "This is not a case to evoke our sympathy. To grant the defendant's bid for mercy would have made a mockery of the intent of state lawmakers."Vega was arrested in 1999 for selling more than one pound of cocaine with a street value of more than $100,000 to undercover officers, Brown said. During the investigation, Vega was convicted of what presiding Queens County Supreme Court Justice Randall T. Eng described as the "horrific and cold-blooded execution-style murder" of another Flushing man, Joseph Hill, who was shot dead in Kissena Park while he was urinating, court records indicate.While serving his time, Vega had taken several prison programs, such as "nonviolent conflict resolution," "aggression replacement training," and other courses, records show.However, Vega was also involved in several jailhouse incidents of "harassment," "creating a disturbance," and was removed from other "shop" programs due to "medical or psychiatric reasons.""In short, the defendant's prison record is non-remarkable," said Eng, who issued Vega's drug conviction sentence and denied his chance for resentencing. "Far from being a low level, misguided or addicted drug dealer, the defendant chose to pursue a life dedicated to the commission of major crimes, consistent with repeated criminal offenses, not the least of which was a horrific and cold-blooded execution style murder."In 2004, the Drug Law Reform Act amended the so-called Rockefeller Drug Laws in response to the large number of small-time dealers doing longer sentences behind bars. The amendment allows anyone serving a drug sentence of more than 15 years to apply to be resentenced. "To grant the defendant's application would be a direct affront to the genuine spirit and underlying purpose of the DLRA, a legislative amendment designed to ameliorate the often harsh sentencing previously imposed under the so-called "Rockefeller Drug Laws," Eng said.The Rockefeller Drug Laws were enacted in 1973 by Gov. Nelson Rockefeller in order to provide mandatory minimum sentencing for those in possession of more than two ounces of a drug with intent to sell.Reach reporter Scott Sieber by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

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