Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez pleaded not guilty to bribery and other charges in Tuesday and asked a judge for an immediate trial to clear his name.
Perez was arraigned Tuesday morning in Hartford Superior Court on charges including receiving a bribe, tampering with evidence and conspiring to tamper with evidence. The three-term Democrat has been out on bond since his arrest.
Perez's attorney, Hubert Santos, says Perez is "prepared to go to trial today." The judge instead asked Perez to report back to court March 3 for a hearing.
Edward Lazu, a Hartford city employee who was arrested with Perez last week, has also entered a not guilty plea. Lazu appeared in court Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to forgery, receiving a bribe and criminal attempt to fabricate physical evidence.
- Eddie Perez: charged with one count each of bribe receiving, fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence.
- Edward Lazu: charged with one count of bribe receiving, three counts of forgery in the second degree and one count of criminal attempt to fabricate physical evidence.
- Carlos Costa, of West Hartford, who owns and operates USA Contractors, Inc.: charged with two counts of bribery, and one count each of fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence. He was arrested on Monday.
- Read the allegations here.
Perez is accused of hiring a city contractor to do $40,000 worth of renovations to his home and not paying for it until investigators confronted him in 2007. Contractor Carlos Costa had performed millions of dollars of work for the city.
Perez said last week it was a mistake to hire Costa, but he insists he did nothing illegal. He also said he has no plans to step down as mayor.
Costa told investigators he believed he would be shut out of lucrative city contracts had he not done the work for free. Investigators also accuse Perez of repeatedly intervening in matters to help Costa, such as by pressing city workers to pay Costa's bills faster than other municipal contractors.
Prosecutors said Costa did free driveway and sidewalk work for Lazu, who certifies contractors for city work.
"My client is going to be exonerated," Lazio's attorney, Richard Brown, said after the hearing. "There is insufficient evidence."
Costa is charged with two counts of bribery, fabricating physical evidence and conspiracy to fabricate physical evidence. His arraigned is scheduled for Friday.
Even more questions loomed recently after the embattled mayor was accused of having an e-mail account set up under a false name - Willie Nunez.
The account was established to alert Perez of important issues, prosecutors said. However, the documents included only 10 emails, none of which were sent out by the mayor.
One e-mail from 2004 makes reference to Carlos Costa. The others are unrelated. Read more about the e-mails here.
"My problem with that e-mail account under that fictitious name is that you couldn't request that information from that e-mail unless you knew it,” Ken Kennedy, a Hartford city council member, said. “It's like a private secret club among friends, as opposed to an open mayor's office."