Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez plans to testify in his own defense later his corruption trial. Defense Attorney Hubert Santos made the announcement in court Tuesday afternoon, saying Perez wants to respond to claims raised by contractor Carlos Costa.
After testimony wrapped up for the day, Santos asked Judge Julia Dewey to separate the bribery case from the larceny case "on the grounds Perez wishes to testify in the bribery case but not the larceny case."
Santos requested the two cases be tried separately before the trial began. Judge Dewey denied that request.
In the bribery case, prosecutors allege Costa's company made $40,000 in renovations to the mayor's home in exchange for the mayor stepping in to keep him from getting kicked off the Park Street project. Numerous witnesses have testified that project was marred by delays, cost escalations, and poor workmanship.
The defense says the mayor was being fiscally responsible in keeping Costa on the project, as it would avoid a costly legal battle and further delays to the project.
Testimony in the larceny case, which focuses on no-bid parking lot deals, is scheduled for later in the trial.
In court Tuesday, Costa took the witness stand for a third day, wrapping up his testimony in the morning by answering additional questions from the defense.
Santos again asked Costa to explain the deeply discounted bill he gave Perez for renovations to his home.
"When I gave the bill to Eddie, it was my best assessment for what I thought would be a fair and accurate bill based on what he could pay," Costa said.
"Over the years, you've done work for friends, right?" Santos asked.
"Yes," Costa replied.
"And have you given them bills where you gave them a break?" Santos asked.
"Yes," Costa replied.
Santos then questioned why Costa told investigators he prepared a bill as the work went on, but changed that statement to say it actually happened much later.
"Would it be fair to say you lied to Inspector Sullivan?" asked Santos.
"I'm not sure you can call it a lie," said Costa, who pointed out the original statement was made the day investigators raided his Hartford business. "I was so nervous on that day that I didn't know if I was coming or going."
Throughout the rest of the morning and into the afternoon, prosecutors called numerous witnesses who either worked for Costa on the mayor's home or sold products to Costa for the renovation.
After testimony wrapped up mid-afternoon, Santos raised the issue of splitting the two cases. Judge Dewey said she will consider the request, but also said the issue should have been raised earlier.
Another problem also surfaced involving the admissibility of a secretly recorded phone call between Santos and investigators about the bill Costa gave to Perez.
In court, prosecutors said statements on the call amount to an admission on behalf of Perez.
If allowed into evidence, Santos told the judge he will either ask for a mistrial, withdraw, or demand to testify. He also called it hearsay.
Judge Dewey said she will do further research and issue a decision in the coming days, and also added that it does sound like hearsay.
One of the lead investigators is expected to take testify in the case later this week.