Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10. Perez faces up to 55 years in prison, with each of the five counts carrying a minimum of one year.
He was convicted of bribe receiving, attempted first-degree larceny by extortion, accessory to evidence tampering and two conspiracy counts — all felonies. But he was acquitted of tampering with evidence.
A native of Puerto Rico, Perez was Hartford’s first Latino mayor. He ascended to the capital city’s top post after he garnered respect for overseeing the Trinity College corridor development. Shortly after, Perez ran for election in 2000 and captured about 70 percent of the vote. In 2004, he became strong mayor and won his second election with 43 percent of the vote.
Today, he emerged from a packed courtroom and said he was innocent of the Chief State Attorney’s charges against him.
“I’m extremely disappointed,” Perez said. “I’m maintaining my innocence.”
After the verdict was read, Perez’s wife, Maria, collapsed and released a deep wail in court. Paramedics gave her oxygen and she then went straight to church with Perez.
Perez was arrested last January for accepting home improvements from a city contractor Carlos Costa in return more access. State Prosecutor Michael Gailor said Perez paid $20,000 for $40,000 worth of renovations. Prosecutors also charged Perez for encouraging developer Joseph Citino to pay $100,000 to Hartford’s North End political boss, Abraham Giles.
Costa testified in court that renovating the mayor’s house was the “cost of me doing business with the city.” Gailor maintained that Perez repeatedly intervened in matters to help Costa, such as keeping Costa on the 2.4 million Park Street project despite shoddy work and city workers’ call to fire Costa. Prosecutors also claimed that Perez pressed city workers to expedite payments to Costa. Perez’s attorney Hubert Santos told the jury that Perez had to intervene through a point person, Charles Crocini, because the relationship between Costa and the city’s Department of Public Works had deteriorated. And it would have “cost a fortune” had Perez not intervened.
Santos also pointed out that the city was notorious for paying contractors up to 60 days late. The defense also demonstrated that Costa did not receive more access, as he was always calling the mayor’s office and at times would not get a return phone call.
Santos also pointed out that Costa was mostly communicating with Perez’s wife about the renovations, not Perez. And the Perez family did not think they were committing a crime by asking a family friend to do renovations on their house. In fact, Santos said, Costa’s USA Contractors Inc trucks were usually parked outside the mayor’s house for all to see.
Perez was arrested again in September for larceny. Prosecutors said that Perez encouraged Joseph Citino to “take care” of former state Rep. Abraham Giles for the parking lot Giles occupied.
The parking lot was next to the so-called “Butt Ugly” building at the corner of Trumbull and Main streets. Citino had purchased the property and had plans to develop it into a condo and shopping complex.
But Giles, who had leased a parking lot on the property from the city and then subleased for profit, was an obstacle to Citino’s plans. According to prosecutors, the mayor arranged for Citino to pay Giles $100,000 as part of the sale. Santos said Citino, a convicted felon, was not the type of person who could be extorted. He maintained that the $100, 000 Giles requested was comparable to the $130,000 Giles would had garnered had he cashed out on business arrangements he had prior to Perez being elected.