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State Counters Perez Claims

Ex-Mayor Wants Crime Convictions Overturned

By Jenna Carlesso

August 11, 2012

The chief state's attorney's office has filed court papers rebutting claims by attorneys for former Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez that Perez's criminal convictions should be reversed and that Perez should get a new trial.

In January, Perez's lawyers filed an appellate brief asserting that the court shouldn't have consolidated Perez's two criminal cases and that there ultimately was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. Perez, 54, was found guilty in June 2010 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. He was sentenced in September of that year to three years in prison.

Perez, who has been free on bond since his conviction, resigned from his position as mayor a week after the convictions.

Senior Assistant State's Attorney Harry D. Weller wrote in court papers filed Thursday that there was sufficient evidence to establish that Perez committed the crimes and that his convictions should be upheld.

"In his sufficiency claims, [Perez] is not really saying that the state did not prove its case," Weller wrote. "Rather, he argues that the court must look at the evidence his way and conclude that all of his conduct was innocent. That, however, is not how sufficiency claims are reviewed."

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 onto 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.

One of the corruption counts Perez faced, larceny by extortion, involved a $100,000 fee that Giles allegedly demanded from developer Joseph Citino to vacate a parking lot that Citino needed for a commercial development. Prosecutors said Perez wanted Giles taken care of, even though Giles' demand for payment from Citino blocked plans to raze and redevelop a famously decrepit structure at 1161 Main St. widely known as the "Butt-Ugly Building."

Weller argued in court papers that there was enough evidence to convict Perez in the extortion case and of fabricating evidence and bribe receiving. The state proved Perez's "intent to instill fear" in Citino, he wrote, and did not have to prove that Perez actually instilled fear.

He also claimed that the trial court correctly admitted evidence regarding a parking lot at 1214 Main St., and that the court's jury instructions were correct. Perez's lawyers had argued that the court erred when it admitted evidence to show how far Perez went to provide Giles with a parking lot he wanted to operate, and that the court "erroneously instructed the jury on bribery and extortion."

"These claims are meritless," Weller wrote.

Perez's attorneys had charged that his two criminal cases shouldn't have been consolidated into one trial because in doing so, Perez was "denied the right to testify in the bribery case while remaining silent in the extortion case." They also argued against the consolidation because of "cross-contamination" -- the jury's ability to use evidence in one case to convict him in the other.

"The court was not concerned about cross-contamination, determined that the crimes were not brutal or shocking in nature and that other jurisdictions consolidated white-collar crimes regularly, suggesting there was no reason not to do so in Connecticut," Weller wrote.

Hope C. Seeley, a Perez attorney, could not immediately be reached for comment Friday.

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.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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