HARTFORD — Abraham Giles, a former state representative and political power broker in Hartford's North End who was arrested in the city hall corruption investigation that brought down former Mayor Eddie A. Perez, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor corruption charges Tuesday at Superior Court in Hartford.
Giles, a Democrat, avoids prison and a felony conviction under the terms of a plea agreement offered to him two weeks before his trial was to begin. He pleaded guilty to attempted fourth-degree larceny by extortion and conspiracy to commit fourth-degree larceny by extortion.
Judge Elpedio N. Vitale accepted the agreement, then sentenced Giles to a six-month suspended term in prison and a one-year conditional discharge. The only condition of Giles' discharge was that he make a $500 donation to the state crime victim's compensation fund, which he did Tuesday.
John Kelly, Giles' attorney, said that Giles, 84, was prepared to go to trial Jan. 3, but after renewed negotiations with prosecutors, Giles decided to accept a new offer from prosecutors.
The state made an "offer we couldn't refuse," Kelly said.
"As [Giles] said to me, 'I don't want to die a convicted felon,' " Kelly said. "I said I understand that and it won't happen."
Giles had recently spent a week in the hospital and was unable to stand during Tuesday's hearing. Other than saying "guilty" twice, Giles said nothing during before his sentencing and while leaving court. He did acknowledge his role in the conspiracy and attempt to extort $100,000 from a developer who wanted to build condos on the site of what was once known as the Butt Ugly building.
"At his age, he's entitled to have some peace of mind," Kelly said. "This has been hanging over his head for quite some time."
Prosecutor Chris Alexy said the no-jail disposition was fair because no money changed hands, because Giles had no criminal record and because of Giles' age and health.
Giles had faced two felony charges that each carried possible 20-year sentences.
Arrest warrants outlined several scenarios in which Giles benefited from the city, including a no-bid deal with the city to operate a parking lot, consideration to operate a second parking lot, an attempt by the city to lease a Giles-owned warehouse, an increase in a fee paid to Giles for evictions performed on behalf of the city, a city payment of nearly $10,000 to empty a dumpster that Giles was using and the awarding of a new moving-services contract to Giles.
It was the failed deal over 1161 Main St., also known as the Butt Ugly building, that led to Giles' arrest on corruption charges. Giles asked developer Joseph Citino for a $100,000 payment to vacate a 40-space parking lot that he ran that would have been in the way of any redevelopment project. Giles initially asked for $250,000, but settled on $100,000.
In April 2007, Citino alleged in The Courant that he agreed to pay Giles $100,000 because the mayor told him he had to "satisfy" Giles. The money was never paid.
Perez, a Democrat, wanted Giles' support and the support of the Giles-controlled 5th District Democratic town committee for his re-election bid. The 5th District was torn between Perez and candidates Minnie Gonzalez, Frank Barrows and I. Charles Mathews.
In July 2007, Perez received the endorsement at the Democratic town committee convention, with crucial support from the 5th District. He went on to win the primary and general election.
A jury convicted Perez of five felony corruption charges in June 2010. He was sentenced to three years in prison in September but is free on bail pending an appeal.
Giles was one of five people arrested in connection with an investigation into corruption at city hall. In addition to Giles and Perez, city Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson; Edward Lazu, a former city contract compliance officer; and city contractor Carlos Costa were arrested.
Airey-Wilson and Lazu received accelerated rehabilitation, a special form of probation that would allow their criminal records to be expunged if successfully completed. Costa's case is pending at Superior Court in Hartford.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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