Connecticut's second-highest court has overturned corruption convictions against former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez and he will get new, separate trails on bribery and extortion charges.
In February, a three judge panel at the state's Appellate Court in Hartford heard arguments and a decision was released this morning.
"It was a spirited argument and we're hoping for the best," said attorney Hubert Santos outside court earlier this year. 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.
Perez wanted to testify on the bribery charges, but exercise his fifth amendment rights on the extortion charges, but the court denied it.
The court opinion states that "there was sufficient evidence to sustain the defendant's convictions," but that the court should not have combined the two criminal cases into a single trial.
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 a grand jury questioned him about it.
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.
"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.
Check back for updates as we go through the court decision.