Judge Seals 'Damning' Parts Of Report On Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez
JEFFREY B. COHEN
July 24, 2009
The judge running a secret 18-month probe into allegations of corruption in the administration of Mayor Eddie A. Perez has decided to seal the parts of his report in which he finds probable cause that crimes were committed, saying that the report's release could either damage a person's right to a fair trial or their reputation.
"The information contained in the report, records and findings, is so damning that the publicity would affect the said individual's right to a fair trial," Superior Court Judge Dennis Eveleigh wrote in a ruling released Thursday.
But, the judge cautioned, all or some of that information "may not survive the scrutiny of cross-examination."
Perez has been the focus of state investigators since the beginning of 2007. For 18 months that ended roughly two months ago, Eveleigh served as the lone grand juror in the state's investigatory grand jury probe .
Perez was arrested in January and pleaded not guilty to charges of bribery, fabricating evidence and conspiracy to fabricate evidence relating to allegedly discounted work done on his home by city contractor Carlos Costa, who was also arrested and has pleaded not guilty.
In a statement, Perez maintained his innocence.
"The judge's decision does raise the important point that this process has been one-sided so far," Perez said. "I am confident that there will be additional facts that come out in court that will prove I did not commit any crime. I look forward to my day in court and to my ultimate vindication."
State law says the report should be made public, unless state prosecutors seek to keep it sealed. In this case, they did, and The Courant opposed them.
Eveleigh's ruling confirmed that "no arrest warrants have been issued as the result of the final report." Whether that ever happens, he said, is up to the state's attorney.
The remainder of the report — which apparently includes the "background and scope of the investigation" — could be available for viewing within 72 hours, he said.
In the ruling, Eveleigh took up the subject of those people for whom the grand jury found probable cause to believe that crimes had been committed. Their attorneys argued that releasing the report could prejudice a fair trial.
"The fact that certain findings were made by a judge acting as an investigatory grand jury, they argue, would lead people to believe that the facts were true, they contend," Eveleigh wrote.
"It is argued that if this final report is disclosed it will seriously affect the ability of those three defendants to receive a fair trial," Eveleigh wrote. "The investigatory grand jury agrees with this argument."
The judge then said that releasing the report would cause damage to the "lives and reputations of innocent persons."
"Where would they go to get their reputations back?" Eveleigh wrote.
William Fish, a lawyer representing The Courant , said "the public has a right to know the particulars of the grand juror's report especially given the comment in the decision about how damning some of the information may be."
"I'm disappointed that, although the judge wrote a thoughtful opinion, he didn't recognize the importance of public disclosure of this type of information in the city of Hartford," Fish said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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