Friday, 12 March 2010 00:00
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice announced that convicted murderer Harpal Hira has pleaded guilty to attempting to hire a hitman from his Nassau County jail cell to murder his sister-in-law before she could provide key testimony as a witness at his trial last month.
Hira, of Hicksville, pleaded guilty to two counts of Criminal Solicitation in the Second Degree. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted. Hira is currently awaiting sentencing after his conviction by a jury on charges of Murder in the Second Degree, Assault in the First Degree, Assault in the Second Degree, two counts of Aggravated Criminal Contempt, two counts of Criminal Contempt in the First Degree, Criminal Possession of a Weapon in the Fourth Degree, Assault in the Third Degree, and Menacing in the Third Degree. He faces up to 50 years in prison on that case. He will be sentenced on both cases March 31.
Rice said that on August 2, 2008, Hira was at the home of his wife, Ritika, to attend a party for their twin infant sons. Though the couple was separated and his wife had taken out an order of protection against her husband, Hira had been invited to the celebration. Hira and his wife soon got into an argument, and Ritika’s mother, Meena Kohli, stepped in between the two.
According to Rice, Hira, who had grabbed a kitchen knife, stabbed Kohli multiple times in the head, back, and abdomen. Hira then turned on his wife, stabbing her in the head, torso, and arms before fleeing the scene, the DA stated.
After a more than three-week manhunt following the murder, Hira was apprehended August 27, 2008, along with a friend who has since been charged with helping Hira elude authorities in the weeks after the killing.
Rice said that in June 2009, her office and the Nassau County Police Department began receiving tips from individuals claiming to have knowledge of the defendant’s jailhouse attempts to hire a hitman to kill his sister-in-law, who was scheduled to testify as a witness during the trial. To break up the plot before it came to fruition, authorities enlisted the help of a jail informant whom Hira had approached earlier about the intended murder. The informant brokered a meeting between Hira and a hitman who was, in reality, an undercover officer. Hira is heard on electronic surveillance giving the undercover officer personal background information on his sister-in-law, including information on her possible whereabouts. On June 10 the two men agreed that Hira would pay the “hitman” $10,000 in exchange for the murder, and discussed more details and payment information at a June 24 meeting. He was indicted by a Nassau County grand jury on August 17, 2009.
“With the amount of blood already on his hands, it is shocking that this defendant thought nothing of trying to end another innocent woman’s life,” Rice said. “My office was fully prepared to take this case to trial before the defendant pled guilty.”
Rice commended the work of corrections officers and jail staff in performing the safe and flawlessly executed undercover investigation inside the East Meadow facility.
Deputy Bureau Chief Anne Donnelly of the Economic Crimes Bureau and Assistant District Attorney Martin Meaney of the DA’s Major Offense Bureau are handling the case for the DA’s office. Hira is being represented by Michael Dergarabedian, Esq.