Saying too much time had passed, a judge threw out the murder case against a Las Vegas limousine driver accused in a 1990 gangland slaying authorities say was aided by a corrupt FBI agent.
Justice Gustin Riechbach determined prosecutors violated John Sinagra's right to a speedy trial by letting more than 15 years pass before charging him.
Sinagra was released from jail Monday and "was very thankful for the court's ruling," said his attorney, Joseph Giaramita. "I just want to point out that he's also innocent."
Prosecutors promised to appeal the ruling and to continue with their case against the ex-FBI agent, L. Lindley DeVecchio.
Sinagra, 40, was charged last year with DeVecchio, who was accused of accepting bribes from an informant, Colombo crime family captain Gregory Scarpa Sr. In return, prosecutors say, the agent fed classified information to Scarpa during a bloody civil war within the family during the 1980s and '90s.
The information helped Scarpa knock off rivals and others, including a man found shot five times in the head in 1990, prosecutors said. An indictment accused Sinagra of killing the man on orders from Scarpa.
Prosecutors initially claimed that evidence against Sinagra did not surface until 2005, but they later disclosed documents showing that investigators had received a tip 10 years earlier that he was the shooter.
Through a series of miscommunications, the 1995 tip was never investigated. Instead, police closed the case in 1996 after mistakenly attributing the murder to a dead man, authorities said.
The judge found police and prosecutors negligent in their handling of the case.
DeVecchio, who has pleaded not guilty, is free on $1 million bail. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years to life in prison.
Scarpa was convicted of murder and racketeering and died in prison.