A city contractor who was embroiled in a corruption investigation that led to the conviction of former Mayor Eddie A. Perez applied for a special form of probation Thursday.
Judge David Gold ordered Carlos Costa to return to Superior Court in Hartford on Feb. 24, when Judge Julia Dewey will decide whether to grant him accelerated rehabilitation, a program that would allow his record to be cleared if he successfully completes a probationary term.
Costa has been charged with two counts of bribery, tampering with physical evidence and conspiracy to commit tampering with physical evidence. He has pleaded not guilty.
"It's the most expeditious way to do things, and I think he deserves accelerated rehabilitation," said William Gerace, Costa's attorney. "I'm hoping Judge Dewey will grant it."
The proceeding was brief. Costa confirmed for Gold his West Hartford address and waived his right to a trial.
Costa looks drastically different than he did when he testified at Perez's trial, which began in May. Gone is the clean-shaven look; Costa has grown hair, including a mustache and a thick, gray beard.
Gerace said he hopes the judge will take into account Costa's role in testifying during the former mayor's trial, and the fate of others who were charged in the city hall corruption investigation.
Former city Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson, who was accused of tampering with evidence, and Edward Lazu, a former city employee accused of trading favorable treatment toward Costa for a new driveway at his home, both received accelerated rehabilitation.
But prosecutor Christopher Alexy said Thursday that there was no agreement with Costa to keep him out of jail in exchange for his testimony.
"We didn't make any deals or arrangements with him prior to him testifying," said Alexy, who prosecuted the Perez case with Michael Gailor, also from the chief state's attorney's office.
Prosecutors charged that Perez, 53, accepted deeply discounted home improvement work from Costa in exchange for Perez's help in holding on to a $5.3 million contract to renovate Park Street — a job mired in problems.
Costa and other witnesses testified during Perez's four-week trial that the former mayor assigned Charles Crocini, director of capital projects in the mayor's office, to run interference for Costa and try to settle $1.7 million in claims from Costa for extra payments beyond the contract price, even though public works officials and an expert consultant said that most of the claims lacked merit.
The prosecution also asserted that Perez wanted North End politician Abraham Giles to be paid to vacate a parking lot on a sliver of land crucial to a developer's plans for a condominium and shopping center.
While interviewing Airey-Wilson in 2008, investigators from the chief state's attorney's office learned that Costa, of USA Contractors, had also performed work at her home. She later produced what investigators believed to be a fabricated proof of payment.
During testimony at Perez's trial, Costa said he installed a countertop in Airey-Wilson's butler's pantry at her request and didn't intend to charge her.
Perez was convicted of five felony corruption charges in June, and later sentenced to three years in prison.
A judge granted Airey-Wilson accelerated rehabilitation in October. She retired from the city council in December.
The city of Hartford paid Costa $485,000 in September to settle a lawsuit he filed seeking money owed to him for work on the stalled Park Street project. Costa had sued the city for $2.2 million last year, citing breach of contract, unpaid change orders and unpaid work on the project.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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