Connecticut's second-highest court is considering whether to overturn five corruption convictions against former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez.
A three judge panel at the state's Appellate Court in Hartford heard arguments Tuesday morning.
Perez attended the hearing with his wife but left without making any comments on the case.
"It was a spirited argument and we're hoping for the best," said attorney Hubert Santos outside court. Santos represented Perez during the trial and filed the appeal on his behalf.
Perez, Hartford's first Hispanic mayor, was convicted in June 2010 of receiving a bribe from a city contractor in the form of home improvements and trying to extort a $100,000 payment from a developer.
The two cases should have been tried separately to avoid having one case influence jurors about the other case, argued Santos.
"All of this was thrown at the jury in one sitting and by the time we got up to present our defense, we were pretty well cooked so to speak," said Santos during the hearing. "Once you put these things together you are swimming against a tide that's just too overwhelming to deal with."
"There's just no question here that the jury kept the cases separate and reached separate verdicts," said Harry Weller, who argued the appeal on behalf of the state.
In the bribery case, Perez was convicted of allowing city contractor Carlos Costa to perform free renovations to his Bloomfield Avenue home in Hartford in exchange for keeping Costa on the Park Street revitalization project which was plagued by delays and cost overruns. Perez eventually paid $20,000 for $40,000 for the work, but only after he was questioned by a grand jury.
In the extortion case, Perez was convicted of ordering developer Joseph Citino to pay $100,000 to political boss Abraham Giles to redevelop a Main Street parking lot that Giles ran that sat next to a vacant building. Citino planned to revitalize both properties. The deal fell through when he realized Giles was not leasing the lot from the city and had no lease termination fee.
Prosecutors said Perez allowed Giles to run the lot and ordered that payoff to get Giles to back his 2007 re-election bid.
Perez also allowed Giles to run another Main Street parking lot without a lease. This deal was not part of the criminal case, but jurors still heard testimony about it at trial. It's something the defense says should not have been allowed.
"It muddied the waters," said Santos.
"The jury was properly instructed on how to use that evidence," said Weller.
Perez was sentenced to three years in prison but has remained free on an appeal bond.
After the hearing, the judges gave no time frame for when their ruling will be issued.