The city contractor who says he did deeply discounted home renovation work for Mayor Eddie A. Perez without the expectation of getting paid pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in Hartford Superior Court this morning.
The contractor, Carlos Costa, has told a state investigatory grand jury looking into allegations of corruption at Hartford City Hall that he never expected to get paid for what he said was roughly $40,000 in kitchen and bathroom work for Perez in 2005.
According to arrests warrants, Costa has told investigators that he thought the allegedly free work was "the cost of me doing business with the City." At the same time he was working on the mayor's house, Costa was working on a $5.7 million city streetscape project. As Costa struggled to meet deadlines and complete the city work, Perez intervened on his behalf and to his benefit, prosecutors allege.
"He did what he did," said William Gerace of Costa, his client, adding that the facts of the allegations against Costa aren't in dispute. It's the interpretation that's at issue.
"Someone else will have to determine if he committed a crime or if he was trying to make a living," Gerace said, adding that what Costa did was grease "the wheels of business."
Perez also pleaded not guilty on Tuesday. Although prosecutors allege that Perez paid roughly $20,000 for a $40,000 only after state investigators started asking him questions about the home renovation, Perez has said that he always intended to pay Costa and that he did not trade his public office for personal gain. His attorney, Hubert Santos, has said that prosecutors have not alleged a crime.
Perez is scheduled to be back in court March 3, while Costa's next appearance has been set at March 18.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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