After 25 years in prison, Cocaine Cowboys hitman wants reduced sentence

04/29/2013 7:14 PM

04/30/2013 7:38 AM

Cocaine Cowboys hitman Jorge Ayala, suspected of 35 drug slayings and convicted in three, wants out of prison.

Ayala, whose penchant for dirty talk with secretaries dealt a damaging blow to the prosecution of Miami drug kingpin Griselda Blanco, is asking a judge to reduce his life prison term because of his “substantial” cooperation with law enforcement in the 1980s.

And to help his client’s cause, Ayala’s attorney is planning to call the former Miami-Dade prosecutor on his case: Cathy Vogel — now the elected Monroe County State Attorney.

“He feels, after all these years, he deserves a chance at redemption,” said attorney Jim Lewis, who filed his request last week in Miami-Dade circuit court. “I think he’s done a lot of good. He put a lot of people in jail, one of the few people who stood up to the Colombian Cartel.”

Ayala, 48, was a feared gunman for the cartel. Detectives believed the charismatic hitman was to blame for 35 drug-related contract murders.

He pleaded guilty in 1993 to three murders and 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.

Ayala’s next chance: a 2019 hearing.

He is best known for his role working for Blanco, the savage Miami drug kingpin of the 1970s and 80s, known as “the Godmother.” She spent nearly two decades behind bars before her 2004 deportation to Colombia. She was gunned down in Medellin in September.

Thanks to Ayala, Blanco wound up being convicted of three murders, though she was believed to be behind more than 40 murders.

Ayala later detailed the slayings in the 2006 documentary Cocaine Cowboys .

Investigators linked Blanco to a brazen daytime 1979 submachine gun attack at busy Dadeland Mall, an episode that shocked Miami.

Ayala told police that Blanco ordered him to kill drug dealers Alfredo and Grizel Lorenzo, who had failed to pay for five kilos of cocaine. They were shot to death in their South Miami home, as their three children watched television in another room in 1982.

Ayala also was a shooter targeting Jesus “Chucho” Castro, a former cartel enforcer whom Blanco had marked for death. He survived a barrage of bullets as he drove in South Miami-Dade in 1982 — but his 2-year-old son, Johnny Castro, was slain.

“At first she was real mad ’cause we missed the father,” Ayala told police after he was jailed. “But when she heard we had gotten the son by accident, she said she was glad, that they were even.”

Investigators caught up with Blanco in 1985 in a New York cocaine trafficking case. She ultimately served 13 years in federal custody before she was handed over to Florida authorities.

She seemed bound for Florida’s Death Row until Ayala, the state’s star witness ran into trouble behind bars. In 1998, investigators discovered that that Ayala had engaged in phone sex with secretaries from the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office. The probe revealed that the secretaries had exchanged photographs from Ayala and accepted money and gifts.

One secretary claimed she was under orders from Vogel, the Miami-Dade prosecutor, to “flirt” with Ayala and “keep him happy.” Vogel always denied the claim.

After an investigation, three secretaries were fired and Michael Band, a veteran prosecutor, resigned.

One of the secretaries later sued the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for wrongful termination and was awarded $155,000.

With the case against Blanco weakened, special prosecutors from Orlando took over. Blanco cut a plea deal in 1998, and agreed to a 20-year term, of which she only served about seven years.

Ayala now will be moved from Santa Rosa Correctional Institution near Pensacola to a Miami-Dade jail. His case is before Circuit Judge Migna Sanchez-Llorens.

An “evidentiary” hearing will likely be scheduled in the next several months. If released, Ayala would be deported to Colombia.

His lawyer is planning to call witnesses to testify about Ayala’s cooperation “which resulted in many successful criminal prosecutions,” according to a motion filed last week in Miami-Dade circuit court.

That includes former statewide prosecutor Cynthia Imperato, now a Broward Circuit Judge, and Band, a defense attorney who was head of the Miami-Dade’s State Attorney’s major crimes unit. Both worked on the Blanco case.

Ayala also wants to call retired Miami-Dade homicide sergeant Al Singleton and his former defense lawyer, Hilliard Moldof.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle’s office still is deciding whether to oppose the move.

“Hopefully, the State Attorney will forget about the foolishness with the phone calls and the secretaries and do the right thing and give him credit for what he’s done,” Lewis said.

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