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Man Sentenced in Wife’s Slaying : Courts: Michael Hardy, who professed on TV to be a contract killer, gets 11 years in the 1985 death. He contends it was an accident.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A La Jolla man who boasted of his underworld ties on a national television show was sentenced Friday in Van Nuys Superior Court to 11 years in prison for killing his wife and burying her body six years ago at their former Canoga Park home.

Michael J. Hardy, 46, got the maximum sentence in his wife’s death despite supportive testimony from longtime associate Nicholas Pileggi, co-author of the critically acclaimed mob movie, “Goodfellas.”

Last month, Hardy pleaded no contest to voluntary manslaughter in the 1985 death of his wife, Deborah L. Hardy.

But he has continued to maintain that his wife’s death was accidental, and that his only fault was in burying her rather than reporting the death to police.

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The victim’s remains were uncovered behind a house on Sherman Way last year when Michael Hardy’s 25-year-old son, Robert, told police about the 1985 killing and provided a map showing where his mother was buried.

Pileggi, a veteran writer on crime and the Mafia, tried to explain why Hardy buried his wife in the back yard, saying that, as a longtime criminal, Hardy “was not part of the culture to go to police, to call ambulances, to call doctors.”

Pileggi told Judge Judith M. Ashmann that Hardy, who had provided him information on the underworld that he used in books and screenplays, would not call the police “even if he was burglarized.”

Hardy was characterized in a 1977 New York magazine article and more recently on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show as an organized-crime hit man who had killed 14 people.

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But police have maintained there is no evidence suggesting Hardy was a contract killer. Deputy Dist. Atty. Marsh Goldstein, who prosecuted the case, described Hardy as a “blowhard” on the subject of the underworld, describing him as just a “typical violent criminal.”

In a recent interview, Hardy denied ever killing anyone, including his wife.

“I am saying that not only didn’t I do it, but it wasn’t even murder,” he said, repeating his claim that his wife died of a drug overdose. “The only thing I am guilty of is covering up the death, not creating it.”

In court, defense attorney James Blatt asked for a six-year term, saying that after Deborah Hardy died from an overdose, his client “woke up to a dead person beside him and panicked.”

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Goldstein retorted that “any innocent person . . . would have sought medical help.”

The prosecutor also noted that the younger Hardy, who was a stepson to the dead woman, told police that as he and his father buried Deborah Hardy’s body, his father admitted he had killed her with a blow from a flashlight.

Autopsy results were inconclusive as to the cause of death, according to court records.

Blatt said that although Hardy maintains his innocence, he agreed to the plea bargain because he would have faced 42 years to life if he had been convicted in a trial.

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Blatt said that with credit for time already served and additional time off for good behavior, Hardy could be paroled in about five years.


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