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Ex-Detective in Drug Case Is Cleared in ’03 Killing

By MICHAEL BRICK - Published: August 9, 2006

A former police detective who has admitted to stealing and selling drugs has been cleared of involvement in the killing of an informant, prosecutors said yesterday.

The detective, Julio C. Vasquez, has been under investigation for more than two years in connection with the killing of the informant, Miguel Peralta.

Mr. Peralta was found shot dead in a car in the Bronx on Nov. 25, 2003. The day after the killing, Mr. Vasquez and his former partner, Thomas Rachko, who was retired, were caught on videotape robbing a drug courier of $169,000 in an apparently unrelated incident. Both men were arrested, and Mr. Vasquez resigned from the Police Department.

The videotaped robbery led to a broad corruption inquiry by federal and local law enforcement agencies, the largest in a decade since the so-called Dirty 30 case of police crime in the 30th Precinct, and produced internal hearings and criminal charges. Mr. Vasquez and Mr. Rachko pleaded guilty to a federal conspiracy charge. Mr. Rachko is scheduled for sentencing Oct. 13.

At a hearing in Federal District Court in Brooklyn yesterday, Judge Carol B. Amon set a tentative sentencing date of Sept. 22 for Mr. Vasquez, but his case has become complicated by his involvement in internal police investigations.

The department has requested Mr. Vasquez’s testimony in an unrelated administrative proceeding against another detective, Eric Wolfe, said Eric Franz, a lawyer for Mr. Vasquez. But before Mr. Vasquez agrees to testify, Mr. Franz said, he is seeking an immunity agreement from the Manhattan district attorney’s office.

Judge Amon indicated that if Mr. Vasquez agreed to testify in that case, she would delay his sentencing. Under the complex federal sentencing guidelines, cooperation with law enforcement agencies can reduce a prison term.

Prosecutors said in court yesterday that they intend to provide what is known as a 5K letter, called such for its designation in sentencing guidelines, to inform the judge about Mr. Vasquez’s cooperation with federal investigators. The letter empowers the court to reduce the defendant’s sentence. In agreeing to provide the letter, prosecutors indicated that Mr. Vasquez had been cleared of involvement in the homicide.

Adam Abensohn, an assistant United States attorney, said a witness the prosecution had expected to provide information connecting Mr. Vasquez to the killing was unable to provide such information.

Judge Amon asked Mr. Abensohn if he was sufficiently convinced that Mr. Vasquez was not involved in the killing to submit the letter.

“We can’t say conclusively that someone else did it,” Mr. Abensohn said, adding that he could not “prove a negative.”

But, Mr. Abensohn told Judge Amon he would submit the 5K letter.

Outside the courtroom, Mr. Vasquez’s lawyer said his client was pleased.

“He has always been adamant that he had no involvement in this homicide,” Mr. Franz said, adding that his client has “provided information on criminal acts by other police officers.”