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Judge orders re-sentencing of convicted cop killer

BOSTON --Mistakes by federal prosecutors have prompted a U.S. District Court judge to vacate the life sentence of a man convicted of building the bomb that killed a Boston police officer, sparking outrage from police and the victim's family.

Alfred Trenkler, who was sentenced to life in prison for building the bomb that killed Jeremiah J. Hurley Jr. in 1991 will be resentenced at an April 4 hearing because the U.S. attorney's office missed two critical deadlines to respond to motions in the case.

The Feb. 20 ruling vacating the sentence and the possibility of Trenkler receiving a lighter sentence prompted an apology Tuesday from U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan, who called the situation "unacceptable."

"The U.S. Attorney's Office unintentionally failed to respond to the Court as required by two separate orders," Sullivan said in a statement. "We have begun an immediate internal review to determine how the office failed to comply with the Court's orders. There appears to have been a significant breakdown in communication."

When Trenkler was convicted in 1993, the trial judge dismissed the jury and sentenced him to two concurrent life terms.

Trenkler's lawyers argued in their motions that federal law allows only juries, not judges, to impose life sentences, and Judge Rya Zobel agreed in her decision earlier this month.

Sullivan's office twice did not address court orders seeking a response to those defense motions.

Trenkler was convicted of building and planting a bomb under a car belonging to the father of his co-defendant Thomas Shay on Oct. 28, 1991. The device exploded while bomb squad officers were examining it, killing Hurley and injuring his partner, Francis Foley.

Authorities said Trenkler and his partner, Thomas Shay Jr., were trying to kill Shay's father for insurance money. Shay is free after serving 11 years of a 15-year sentence.

Although he is unlikely to be freed, Trenkler could receive a lighter sentence, which has angered police and Hurley's family.

"I pray that he is sentenced to what he deserves for taking my husband," Hurley's wife, Cynthia Hurley, said in a statement issued through a family friend.

Thomas Nee, president of the Boston Police Patrolmen's Association, said he was angered by the government's failures.

"We're very upset that a technicality within the law has reopened a very dark day and a very difficult time for Officer Hurley's family, Officer Foley's family, and Boston police officers," Nee said.

Police Commissioner Edward Davis sent a memo this week to Boston police officers explaining the situation.

"It frustrates me that the persons responsible for the murder of Officer Hurley continue to victimize the victims and their families and refuse to take responsibility for their crimes," Davis wrote.

David added that the department stands by both families. Three of Hurley's four children are Boston officers.