Two weeks before jury selection is scheduled to begin in the corruption trial of Hartford Mayor Eddie A. Perez, the mayor’s attorney has filed a motion seeking to postpone the trial as it relates to charges that Perez tried to extort a city developer.
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Perez was arrested twice last year. In January, he was charged with receiving a bribe and fabricating evidence when he allegedly traded his influence as mayor with a city contractor for discounted work at his home. According to his arrest warrant, the work was done in 2005; Perez didn’t pay contractor Carlos Costa until 2007, after state criminal investigators came asking. Both Perez and Costa have pleaded not guilty.
Later in 2009, Perez was arrested again and charged with attempted extortion. Prosecutors say that Perez and former state Rep. Abraham L. Giles tried to extort $100,000 from a developer looking to buy a piece of city property. Both Perez and Giles have pleaded not guilty to these charges. Perez has pleaded not guilty. Giles has applied for a special form of probation.
Hubert Santos, Perez’s attorney, said in court documents filed this week that the mayor’s trial should be postponed until after Giles has his trial. His next court date is April 15.
“Based on the affidavit in support of the arrest of the Defendant and Mr. Giles, Mr. Giles is in possession of exculpatory information that is critical to the Defendant’s defense of the extortion counts,” Santos said in documents filed Monday in Hartford Superior Court. “If the Defendant is tried before Mr. Giles, Mr. Giles will not be available to testify because, in all likelihood, he will assert his Fifth Amendment privilege if called as a witness.”
That motion was one of several Santos filed Monday. In another, Santos asks for “additional peremptory challenges” during jury selection. Those challenges would allow him to disqualify potential jurors.
In that motion, Santos says he needs this right “because of the prejudicial pretrial publicity that has occurred over the past several years and to ensure that the Defendant has an opportunity to select, as members of the jury, persons from the minority communities in the Judicial District of Hartford.”
In still another motion, Santos asked the court for permission to ask for a change of venue after the completion of jury selection because of “massive prejudicial pretrial publicity, the absence of minority representation on the jury panels, and a generalized anti-Hartford bias from the towns and cities surrounding Hartford…”
Santos said that “may make it impossible” for Perez to have a fair trial in the judicial district of Hartford.
Finally, Santos filed a motion asking the court to waive Perez’s presence during jury selection.
Also, in February, Santos filed several other motions, including one seeking to “suppress as evidence…any and all evidence and fruits seized from” Perez’s house or person “and any and all statements made by the Defendant…”
Among other things, the motion says that the searches and seizures were illegal, were without probable cause, and that they were the “result of police misconduct.”
Santos declined extensive comment Wednesday. He did, however, say that he planned to withdraw the motion regarding Perez’s presence during jury selection.
Faced with concerns from some on the Hartford City Council that he could not both serve as mayor and be on trial, Perez told WNPR recently that he plans to continue serving as mayor. He declined an interview request Wednesday, but his staff provided a statement.
“No mayor runs a city all by himself,” the statement reads. “I’ve got a great team in place to respond to both routine and emergency situations and an excellent leadership relationship with Council President [Pedro] Segarra. This city runs 24-7 whether I am in the office, on vacation, or out of town. It will continue to do so and I will continue to do my job.”
A procedural hearing is scheduled for April 6, during which a judge will likely consider these motions. Jury selection is to begin April 12. Trial is scheduled to begin in May.