Judge Rejects Motion To Dismiss Case Against Hartford Mayor
JEFFREY B. COHEN
September 05, 2009
It seems that among those debating the question of whether Mayor Eddie A. Perez can effectively run the city while he fights corruption and bribery charges is the mayor himself, or at least those who speak for him.
After his arrest Wednesday, Perez went to city hall and stood among supporters, family members, and a room full of cameras to say he would beat the criminal charges against him and finish the job he was elected to do.
"The voters in Connecticut's capital city elected me to a third term as mayor of Hartford," he said. "The term is not over."
But Friday, at Superior Court in Hartford, Perez's attorney sent a different message as he explained why the mayor wanted a speedy trial. A lengthy legal process, argued Hubert Santos, would mean the mayor's "ability to govern would be seriously hampered."
Later the same day, the mayor released another statement on the issue.
"I want to assure the people of Hartford that nothing will distract me from the job I was elected to do," he said.
Balancing the mayor's legal authority with his legal troubles will be something he and the city will have to figure out for at least another five months; a state court judge Friday rejected a motion to dismiss the charges against him and pushed the trial on the original charges back until February, at the earliest.
Perez was arrested for the second time in a year this week.
In January, he was arrested on bribery and other charges related to allegedly discounted work done in his home by a city contractor. On Wednesday, Perez, a Democrat, was arrested on attempted extortion charges related to a failed development deal in which a political ally, former state Rep. Abraham Giles, would have been paid $100,000 by a private developer.
At Friday's hearing, Judge Julia Dewey rejected Santos' motion asking her to dismiss the charges against Perez because, he argued, the state had "intentionally defeated the defendant's right to a fair trial" by arresting him just a week before jury selection on the initial charges was to begin Sept. 9.
Santos' motion also asked Dewey to hold Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane in contempt of court for arresting Perez and releasing arrest warrants just as the state Supreme Court was keeping sealed the final report of the 18-month grand jury that investigated Perez.
Santos backed away from the contempt request in court Friday, pressing instead for dismissal. He argued that the state knew that the arrests this week "would cause prejudicial pretrial publicity."
His arguments also grew more heated as the hourlong hearing progressed, saying the state made the arrests this week to "torpedo the trial" because it didn't think it could win.
He accused state prosecutors of "trying to set aside an election," of trying to "oust the only minority mayor" in the state's five big cities, saying that the state created a "circus atmosphere," and telling the judge that "no prosecutor in his right mind would do what they have done here."
Prosecutor Michael Gailor rejected most of Santos' arguments, noting that "most of the pretrial publicity has been generated by the mayor himself and attorney Santos."
And Dewey dismissed Santos' pretrial publicity argument as well as his argument that the state was acting with "malice."
"Publicity," Dewey said, "doesn't mean that there's prejudice."
As it became clear that Dewey was not going to dismiss the charges against Perez, Santos told her he had no choice but to ask for a continuance. Dewey and the state agreed to the delay. Dewey asked the state to decide in the next week whether it wants to have a single trial, encompassing all charges against the mayor.
The trial won't begin until February at the earliest. Santos plans to appeal the denial of his motion to dismiss the case.
An Associated Press report is included in this story.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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