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Suit claims slaying suspect was police informer

Leonardo Valdez-Cruz leave the Nassau County Courthouse shouting

Leonardo Valdez-Cruz leave the Nassau County Courthouse shouting out his innocence after he was arraigned on Murder charges for killing Jo'Anna Bird. (May 29, 2009) Credit: Newsday/Photo by Howard Schnapp

Leonardo Valdez-Cruz was working - either formally or informally - as a police informer during the time that prosecutors now say he was lodging a campaign of terror against his girlfriend, Jo'Anna Bird, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court.

It was that relationship that led police to be lenient on the 24-year-old Westbury man despite the numerous orders of protection Bird had filed against him, alleges the lawsuit, filed by Bird's mother against Nassau police and prosecutors in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

A spokesman for the Nassau County Police Department said Friday that the department does not confirm or deny the identity of informers.

Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey last year acknowledged his officers had "failed . . . to do a thorough and comprehensive preliminary examination" in the case, and said that seven officers would be disciplined.

An internal review found officers did not properly investigate at least four visits by Valdez-Cruz to Jo'Anna Bird's mother's New Cassel home just days before, police say, he killed her.

At a news conference Friday, Bird's mother, Sharon Dorsett, said her daughter would be alive today if authorities had acted more quickly. "They [police] could have prevented him from torturing and murdering her, but they didn't," Dorsett said.

Fredrick Brewington, of Hempstead, Dorsett's lawyer, would not specify why he believes Valdez-Cruz was providing information to police.

A section of the lawsuit - which seeks upward of $20 million - contends, " Valdez-Cruz and/or other members of his family had an ongoing personal relationship with the county of Nassau defendants as an informant provider of information and/or informal source, among other things. . . . due to this ongoing relationship between defendant Valdez-Cruz and/or other members of his family with the county of Nassau defendants, the police were lenient with defendant Valdez-Cruz and allowed him to violate the law with immunity."

In a jailhouse interview earlier this week, Valdez-Cruz, who's murder trial starts in two weeks, would not say whether he had given police information in exchange for leniency.

The lawsuit also asserts police waited outside Bird's home for hours on the day she was killed, chatting and joking while Valdez-Cruz tortured and killed her. A family member called police at 10:20 a.m. on March 19, the lawsuit says, after Bird phoned her mother to say Valdez-Cruz had barricaded her in her home. When police hadn't arrived 15 minutes later, the person called again, the lawsuit says. Police showed up about 20 minutes after that, the lawsuit says.

Police had said a 911 call came in much later, at 12:44 p.m., but spokesman Kevin Smith would not reconfirm that or other facts in the case Friday because of the lawsuit.