Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez walked into the state police barracks to face corruption charges just after 11 a.m. Wednesday for his second arrest in eight months.
At noon, he stood in the function room at City Hall, vowing as he did earlier this year to continue to lead the city and said he has committed no crime.
“The term is not over,” Perez said, to applause. “Each and every day, with the blessing of my God, I’ll wake up and work hard, 24/7. … I will remain as your mayor and continue to do the job you elected me to do.”
This time, the charges involve former Hartford State Rep. Abraham Giles, 83, who turned himself in to state police Wednesday morning. City Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson also turned herself in Wednesday. All three have been charged with criminal attempt to commit larceny in the first-degree by extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit larceny in the first degree by extortion.
“Truth is on my side," Perez said, to a crowd that often applauded as he spoke. "I committed no crime and I will be vindicated of all charges against me and I want my day in court.”
Perez called the prior case against him a one-sided, secret process, as well as a trial in the media and of public opinion, not in the courts.
“This process has lasted well over 18 months and has affected hundreds of hundreds of people,” Perez said. “Just last week, the court finally schedules jury selection for Sept. 9 and a trial to begin in November. Three days later, the state decided to bring additional charges. There is nothing new here. I want to remind everyone that justice delayed is justice denied.”
Perez's arrest comes after state investigators and a grand jury looked into a no-bid parking lot deal between the city and Giles’ company to run a city-owned parking lot at Main and Trumbull streets.
Perez and Giles are accused of engaging in a scheme to extort money from a person who wanted to develop adjoining properties at 1161 and 1143 Main Street in Hartford, according to the warrants state.
Giles, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice paid the city $500 a month to use the property at 1143 Main St. as a parking lot. The warrants allege that Giles initially demanded $250,000 from the prospective developer for the project to go forward, but later reduced that amount to $100,000.
Perez made the satisfaction of Giles a condition for allowing the development project to proceed, the warrants alledge.
Airey-Wilson, 56, was charged with fabricating physical evidence. The warrant alleges that she provided false evidence indicating she paid for granite countertops installed at her home by the contractor who was arrested earlier this year with in connection with free work he allegedly did at the Mayor’s home, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.
“I intend to fight these charges and continue to serve as your mayor,” Perez said earlier this week, reading from a prepared statement. “I am innocent of the charges against me and I will fight for the facts to come out, because the truth is on my side.”
The mayor is also scheduled to go on trial this fall on unrelated bribery charges involving Peter Costa, a city contractor who renovated Perez's home and was also awarded millions of dollars in city contracts.
Perez was arrested in that case earlier this year and denies wrongdoing.
"It is very unusual for there to be a second charge of criminal offenses while you have pending charges,” said Jim Bergenn, a legal analyst and attorney for the firm Shipman and Goodwin in Hartford, regarding Perez's second arrest.
Bergenn said the new allegations complicate Perez’s upcoming trial on bribery charges. Jury selection was expected to get underway next week.
"The thing that is very curious to me is how the judge is going to react because he, number one, has to get a fair and impartial jury. This is going to make a lot of news,” Bergenn said, referring to the new arrest warrant.
“And number two, they have to sort out how the defendant here, the mayor, gets a fair trial,” said Bergenn.
Hartford City Council member Ken Kennedy said the mayor should consider taking a leave of absence.
Hartford City Council member Ken Kennedy said earlier this week that the mayor should consider taking a leave of absence.
Carlos Lopez, 63, of Farmington, was also charged with three counts of fraudulent voting. The warrant alleges that Lopez unlawfully voted in three Hartford municipal elections between 2004 and 2007.
His business, Connecticut Parking Services, contracts with the City of Hartford to operate the MAT garage in Hartford, according to the state Division of Criminal Justice.
The defendants were released on written promises to appear in Hartford Superior Court on Sept. 8.