Judge: Perez Can Testify Only in Bribery Case

Shawn Grate
Ashland County Sheriff Office

Jurors in the corruption trial of Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez heard more testimony on Friday about a defense claim the mayor has reading problems, including dyslexia, that limit how much he reads on the job.

Matthew Hennessy, the mayor's former chief of staff, said it takes the mayor a long time to read through documents.

"If it was more than one page, he would often take the document home and do reading at night," said Hennessy.  "Sometimes I would watch him actually read the document backwards, start at the bottom and work up."

Due to the little-known disability, the defense says the mayor missed key emails, including one from developer Joseph Citino detailing a $100,000 planned payoff to political boss Abraham Giles.

Prosecutors say the mayor demanded Citino "take care" of Giles or his plan to buy a city-owned parking lot run by Giles wouldn't happen.

"Let's put this to rest.  The mayor can read, right?" asked prosecutor Michael Gailor.

"Yes," replied Hennessy.

Prosecutors also pointed out the mayor regularly reads speeches that were written for him by others.

"He would read those speeches at public appearances, right?" asked Gailor.

"He would read portions of the speeches, yes," replied Hennessy.

"Any you wouldn't write the speeches for him from the bottom of the page to the top, right?" asked Gailor.

"No," replied Hennessy.

Hennessy also testified that he never heard Perez order Citino to "take care" of Giles, but also acknowledged that he did not hear every word exchanged between the two during that meeting.

Earlier in the morning, Judge Julia Dewey ruled Perez will be allowed to testify in the bribery case involving renovations to his home if he chooses to, and not in the larceny by extortion case involving that planned parking lot payoff.

Dewey denied other defense requests for a mistrial and to formally separate the cases into two trials.

"It's his decision whether he wants to testify in one case and not the other," Dewey said. "Cross examination is limited to the case he's testifying about because, once again, I have told the jury every day these are two separate cases."

Before the ruling, defense attorney Hubert Santos outlined the reasons Perez wants to testify in the bribery case.

In his planned testimony, Santos told the judge the mayor would say using city contractor Carlos Costa for the renovations was a mistake, that he repeatedly asked for a bill, that he put the payment on the back burner due to his wife's illness, and that he had other financial concerns including worries over his wife's medical bills.

He would also say the decision to keep Costa on the troubled Park Street project was not his, but that he instead followed the recommendation of Charles Crocini, his director of capital projects, according to Santos.

Prosecutors say Perez accepted the renovations in exchange for keeping Costa on the Park Street project.

The mayor does not want to testify in the larceny by extortion part of the case because he doesn't find Citino to be credible, Santos said.

Also, other people will testify they thought Giles had a legal right to be on the parking lot at 1143 Main St. that Citino wanted to buy and that they believed he had a right to a lease termination fee.

Because of that testimony, there's no need for the mayor to speak to that, Santos said.

The defense is also concerned if the mayor testified in the larceny by extortion case, he would be exposed to cross examination on other uncharged misconduct that would be prejudicial, Santos said.

Such conduct includes other deals with Giles, including a reduction in his parking lot rents and an increase in the fees the city paid him to evict tenants.

Even though the mayor can testify in one case and not the other, it's still not clear if he will.  Even though he made the request, Santos acknowledged that it still could be prejudicial to do so.

Testimony in the trial continues Monday morning.

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