Ex-Hartford Mayor Perez's Appeal On Corruption Charges To Be Heard Today
By JENNA CARLESSO
February 18, 2013
HARTFORD —— More than two years after former Mayor Eddie A. Perez was convicted of five felony corruption charges and sentenced to three years in prison, his lawyers will have a chance Tuesday to make their case for why those convictions should be thrown out.
Perez, who was arrested after a Courant investigation into corruption within his administration, was convicted by a jury in June 2010 of receiving a bribe, being an accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion. After a four-week trial, the panel reached its verdict after deliberating for about 10 hours over portions of three days.
Perez was sentenced in September 2010, and his attorneys immediately filed an appeal, contending that Perez's two cases — one for extortion and the other for bribery — should not have been consolidated into one trial because Perez wanted to testify in one case but not in the other.
Perez, who is free on bond, resigned from the city's top post a week after his convictions.
'A Stupid Mistake'
In the two years since then, friends say, the former mayor has remained active in the community and in his faith, and he's eager to put his ongoing criminal case behind him.
Perez's five-bedroom home on Bloomfield Avenue — which took the spotlight during his trial for the deeply discounted renovations performed there by a city contractor — sold for $287,500, and Perez has relocated to an apartment in the city's Parkville neighborhood.
Perez, 55, has been busy working as an independent consultant for various organizations, including a group that provides services to people living with HIV and AIDS, and an education initiative. His professional LinkedIn profile says he's also done consulting in real estate development, community relations, nonprofit management, strategic planning and program development.
Perez could not be reached for an interview for this story.
His friends said that recently, he's been focused on preparing for his court date.
"I think his main goal is to get rid of that cloud hanging over him and resume his life," said Cornell Lewis, a longtime friend and community activist.
"He feels and I feel and a lot of other people feel that he made a stupid mistake. In a moment of hesitation he did what a lot of people would do — he told a lie," Lewis said, referring to Perez's statement to investigators saying he had paid for the discounted home repairs, when he hadn't. "I think Eddie would like to reclaim his image, because no matter what people say, he was a hard-working mayor. He's always said he does not like the character assassination that has occurred. He wants to reclaim some of the image that was taken from him."
Calixto Torres, a friend of Perez and a former city councilman, said Perez was eager to "get back to some kind of normalcy."
"He just wants to resolve this as soon as possible," he said.
Since the sentencing, Perez has been visible in the community, Torres said, reconnecting with old friends and checking in on people.
"His nature is doing things for the community," Torres said. "He's always concerned about how folks are doing. That hasn't changed."
Another Day In Court
The appellate hearing on Tuesday marks the first time Perez will return to court since his sentencing at Superior Court in Hartford.
Hubert J. Santos, an attorney for Perez, and Senior Assistant State's Attorney Harry D. Weller will each have 20 minutes to argue their side of the case. A three-judge panel will hear the arguments and render a decision after the hearing. Court officials have said a written judgment could be released the same day, or take up to several weeks or months.
Chief Appellate Court Judge Alexandra Davis DiPentima, Appellate Court Judge Douglas S. Lavine and Judge Trial Referee Thomas A. Bishop, a former Appellate Court judge, have been assigned to the case, court officials said, although assignments are subject to change.
A majority vote by the judges will decide whether the convictions are sustained or overturned.
The amount of time for oral arguments is limited in appellate hearings because much of the rationale already has been laid out in briefs filed during the course of the appeal, officials said.
Santos and another Perez attorney, Hope C. Seeley, have argued in court papers that Perez's two cases should not have been combined into one trial.
"The parallel themes of the two cases increased the risk that jurors would improperly consider the evidence from one case to determine that Mr. Perez was guilty in the other," the attorneys wrote in their final appellate brief, filed in September.
The lawyers have also asserted that Perez was hindered because he was denied the right to testify in the bribery case while remaining silent in the extortion case. They have asked that Perez's convictions be reversed and that he receive two new, separate trials.
Santos did not return a call seeking comment.
Weller has argued in court papers that there was sufficient evidence to establish that Perez committed the crimes and that the convictions should be upheld.
Prosecutors charged that Perez accepted discounted home-improvement work from a city contractor, Carlos Costa, in exchange for Perez's help in holding onto a $5.3 million contract to reconstruct Park Street, a job mired in problems.
Costa and other witnesses testified that Perez 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 state also contended 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. Prosecutors said that in 2007, Perez attempted to extort money from a private developer for Giles' benefit, and that, in return, Giles would secure votes for Perez, who was running for re-election.
Perez exploited Giles' influence in the city's 5th District, prosecutors said, steering lucrative no-bid parking lot deals and other business arrangements to Giles in exchange for a promise to deliver votes and ensure Perez the endorsement of the Democratic town committee.
If the former mayor loses the appeal, he can seek certification of the case to the state's Supreme Court. Prosecutors may also appeal to the Supreme Court.
If the case is denied by the higher court, both parties can file a motion for reconsideration. Perez also has the option of later appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court by citing any federal constitutional issues involved in the case.
If Perez chooses to seek state Supreme Court certification, he would remain free on his appeal bond while the case is ongoing, Weller said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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