Miami judge rejects freedom for Cocaine Cowboys hitman

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Jorge Rivera Ayala, the imprisoned hitman for Miami drug lord Griselda Blanco, won’t get a shot at freedom.

A judge on Thursday denied his bid to explore claims that Miami-Dade prosecutors, back in 1993, agreed in a “handshake deal” to help him seek parole after 25 years in prison.

Ayala, 48, is a notorious figure in Miami crime history. While convicted of just three murders, police suspected he killed at least 35 people in the wild “Cocaine Cowboys” era of Miami in the 1970s and ’80s.

Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens told Ayala that, by law, the appeal was “untimely” and so she had no authority to consider the appeal.

His lawyer, Jim Lewis, said he will appeal the decision.

“Jorge deserves to get the benefit of the bargain,” Lewis told reporters after Thursday’s brief hearing. “He doesn’t deserve to die in prison. He’s atoned for what he’s had done. All he’s asking for is the state attorney’s office to honor their agreement.”

Ayala’s testimony was key in the case against Blanco, known as the “Godmother,” the savage South Florida drug kingpin who spent nearly two decades behind bars before she was deported in 2004. Gunmen killed her last year in her native Colombia.

But the case against Blanco was dealt a damaging blow when it emerged that Ayala, from jail, had been engaging in phone sex with secretaries at the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.

Ultimately, Ayala was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 25 years. Last year, Florida’s parole commission denied him a shot at leaving prison.

The saga of Blanco and Ayala was chronicled in a 2006 documentary, Cocaine Cowboys.

So in April, Ayala’s lawyer filed a motion for a reduction of his sentence, saying prosecutors had reneged on the deal to help him seek parole if he cooperated against Blanco and the Colombian Cartel.

He asked for an “evidentiary” hearing to prove that a deal had indeed been struck.

Lewis’ plan: to call former Ayala prosecutor Cathy Vogel, now the elected state attorney in Monroe County, to testify about the hitman’s cooperation and the plea deal.

Lewis also wanted to call former statewide prosecutor Cynthia Imperato, now a Broward Circuit Judge, and Michael Band, a defense attorney who was head of the Miami-Dade state attorney’s major crimes unit

All three worked on the Blanco case.

He also planned to call to the witness stand retired Miami-Dade homicide Sgt. Al Singleton, as well as Ayala’s former defense lawyer, Hilliard Moldof.

But Assistant State Attorney Penny Brill, head of the office’s legal unit, pointed out in a hearing earlier this month that the plea deal only indicated that prosecutors “might” help Ayala if he cooperated.

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