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Judge to decide on tape recording in murder-for-hire case

A Nassau County judge is expected to decide early next week whether a tape recording on which prosecutors say a murder suspect is trying to hire a hit man is too hard to hear to be played for a jury.

Acting State Supreme Court Justice William Donnino, along with defendant Harpal Hira and others in the case, listened to the 30-minute tape on headphones during a hearing Wednesday.

The judge would not allow a Newsday reporter to hear the tape at the hearing, despite the reporter's objection.

Prosecutors say Hira, 35, of Hicksville, who is charged with fatally stabbing his mother-in-law and seriously injuring his estranged wife at his twin sons' birthday party in August 2008, can be heard on the tape trying to hire an undercover officer to kill his sister-in-law, a key witness.

The undercover officer wore a wire when he visited Hira at the Nassau County Correctional Center in June, prosecutors said.

Hira is charged separately with criminal solicitation in the alleged attempted murder for-hire.

Hira's lawyer, Michael DerGarabedian of Rockville Centre, said the tape's quality is so poor that Donnino should not admit it at trial.

"Anyone with a third-grade education would say that you can't hear a word that Mr. Hira says," DerGarabedian said in court.

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