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Former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez Appeals His Corruption Convictions

Jenna Carlesso

January 10, 2012

Nineteen months after his conviction on five felony corruption charges, attorneys for former Mayor Eddie A. Perez filed an appeal Monday saying the court shouldn't have consolidated Perez's two criminal cases and that there ulimately was insufficient evidence to support the convictions.

The court made an error in merging the two criminal cases one involving charges of bribe-receiving and accessory to the fabrication of evidence, and another involving extortion charges into one trial, Perez' attorneys, Hubert Santos and Hope Seeley, wrote.

They also argued that the judge's instruction to the jury deprived Perez of his right to a fair trial. They asked that the court reverse Perez's convictions and allow two new, separate trials.

"The net result of having consolidated these two unrelated, incendiary political corruption cases was that the trial was analogous to Mr. Perez fighting in a boxing match with both of his hands tied behind his back," the attorneys said in a 60-page appellate brief. "From the commencement of the trial of these two separate political corruption cases, it was apparent that Mr. Perez would not receive a fair trial."

Perez, 54, has been free on bond since his June 2010 conviction. A jury found him guilty of receiving a bribe, 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 in the trial that began May 12, 2010.

He resigned as mayor a week after his conviction. Then-council President Pedro Segarra took over the city's top job and in November won his first full term in office.

Perez faces a three-year prison sentence, plus three years of probation, imposed in September 2010 by Judge Julia Dewey.

In the appellate brief, the attorneys said Perez's two cases shouldn't have been consolidated because "the charges did not involve discrete, easily distinguishable factual scenarios" and because "no jury instruction could have cured the prejudice experienced" by Perez "as a result of the cumulative force of the evidence" against him.

They also argued that Perez was hindered by the consolidation of the cases because he wished to testify in the bribe-receiving case, but not in the extortion case.

"Once the court consolidated these two cases alleging political corruption before a single jury, the deck was unfairly stacked against Mr. Perez," the attorneys wrote. "In a climate where political corruption cases had been front page news in recent years in this state, the stacking of these wholly unrelated corruption cases achieved the precise result for which the state hoped: certain conviction."

Prosecutors had charged that Perez accepted discounted home improvement work from a city contractor, Carlos Costa, who they said needed Perez's help to hold on to a $5.3 million contract to reconstruct Park Street, a job mired in problems.

Costa and other witnesses testified during the four-week trial 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 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.

Richard Blumenthal, then attorney general, filed a lawsuit in September 2010 seeking to revoke or reduce Perez's pension, saying that the court must consider Perez's conviction a betrayal and misuse of public office. The lawsuit is pending.

In November, an arbitrator awarded Perez $70,947 for unused vacation and sick time during his 8 1/2-year tenure, but said Perez would receive nothing for the time he was on trial in 2010.

Perez had submitted pay stub documentation showing 1,216 hours of accumulated vacation, and 768 hours of unused sick time, with a pay rate of just over $66.88 an hour. In addition to the 228 hours for Perez's trial, Arbitrator Joseph A. O'Brien deducted 120 hours from the accumulated vacation based on notations on the ex-mayor's calendar, such as "Mayor out of the office" and "Mayor-vacation."

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
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