Hartford's mayor weighs testifying on his own behalf
June 10, 2010
Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, who maintains his innocence, is under no legal obligation to testify at his trial on corruption charges as the defense begins presenting its case today. Indeed, many defendants ultimately found not guilty have refused to take the witness stand, calculating that it's in their best interest to let their attorneys do the talking.
But Mr. Perez is the leader of a city whose residents are vitally interested in their mayor's own explanation of his behavior. They doubtless hope he decides to testify.
The mayor is charged with bribery and extortion.
Contractor Carlos Costa allegedly did thousands of dollars in free home renovation work for the mayor, in exchange, the state says, for Mr. Perez's intercession to keep Mr. Costa's company working on a multimillion-dollar Park Street improvement project.
As for the second charge, a developer, Joseph Citino, claims that North Hartford political boss Abe Giles tried, with the mayor's blessing, to extract a $100,000 payment from Mr. Citino to terminate Mr. Giles' parking operations on a parking lot that the developer wanted to buy. The state alleges that Mr. Perez wanted to take care of Mr. Giles in return for the latter's support in the 2007 city election.
Mr. Perez, his attorney says, has explanations for his actions and could clear up inconsistencies in his statements captured on a tape secretly made by investigators. But he doesn't want to expose himself on the witness stand to questions about all of Mr. Giles' business dealings with city hall.
The mayor's caution is understandable as a legal strategy. But there's something about a defendant not testifying that is deeply unsettling and could send the wrong message.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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