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Friday, July 5, 1996

Alleged plot to murder Irvin surfaced during police corruption probe

By Associated Press
(July 5, 1996)

DALLAS (AP) - An officer accused of making a down-payment to have Cowboys star Michael Irvin killed turned first to a man trusted by several officers who were under investigation for police corruption.

The Dallas Morning News reported in a copyright story Thursday that the man was an informant who tipped off police about the incident and put officer Johnnie Hernandez in touch with the "hit man," an undercover Drug Enforcement Administration agent.

Sources told the newspaper that the corruption investigation was being made into allegations that several police officers were suspected of providing protection for cocaine dealers.

The DEA and Dallas police began investigating the allegations months before the March 4 incident at an Irving hotel that led to drug charges against Irvin. Police say the investigation is continuing.
Frank Perez, Hernandez's attorney, said he doesn't know about the police corruption investigation or his client's possible involvement.

"I don't know anything about that," Perez said. "As far as I know, they told me no other officers were being investigated. I just can't believe that's accurate."

Police allege Hernandez paid the "hit man" about 10 percent of a $30,000 contract to have the Cowboys wide receiver killed. He resigned after his arrest last Thursday and remains jailed on a charge of solicitation of capital murder and an unrelated bribery charge.

Sources say Hernandez wanted to kill Irvin because the football player had threatened his girlfriend, Rachelle Marie Smith, a topless dancer who is to testify against Irvin in the trial. Hernandez is also a potential witness.

A gag order issued by a Dallas judge has barred anyone involved in the trial from discussing any issues surrounding the case, including Hernandez's motive.

None of the officers or other people under investigation include Dallas Cowboys players, topless dancers or others involved in the Irvin drug case, sources said.

Executive Assistant Chief Willard Rollins, who oversees the Dallas Police Department's public integrity unit, confirmed Wednesday that the arrest came about during an investigation into possible police misconduct.

Rollins declined to comment on specifics of the allegations, saying the investigation is not over.
The murder-for-hire plot "fell in our laps," Chief Rollins said. "And we acted on the information."
Rollins said Hernandez's arrest has damaged but not halted the other investigation.

"We're still continuing to investigate here," he said. "If we develop any information that anyone has violated the law, we will take action."

Rollins stressed that authorities have not uncovered a widespread criminal conspiracy involving the Dallas department.

Aside from Hernandez, he said, "we have no criminal charges against any member of the department" in connection to the misconduct investigation.

Sources said few details of the inquiry were disclosed because authorities still hope to salvage it despite the damage done by the arrest of Hernandez.

Sources said the alleged corruption took a variety of forms, including the possibility that officers took cash from drug dealers.

Hernandez was not initially a target of the investigation but had been associating with the officers and others who were, sources said.

The investigation has targeted about half a dozen officers and an assortment of their acquaintances, including known drug traffickers and other criminals, the sources said. Police Department policy forbids officers to consort with known lawbreakers.

Hernandez is being held at the Lew Sterrett Justice Center in lieu of $252,000 bail.

Perez will ask a judge to lower the bail at a hearing Monday. He also said he hopes to learn more about the alleged murder-for-hire plot at the hearing.


All content copyright 1996, AP, The Abilene Reporter-News and Reporter OnLine

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