HARTFORD, CT (AP) – A judge on Tuesday sentenced former Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez to three years in prison for taking a bribe and attempted extortion, saying he had to be held accountable for his actions despite all his good deeds.
Hartford Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey said Perez also must serve three years of probation after the jail time.
“The reason we are all here today, Mr. Perez, is your conduct and nothing more. It’s one of your making,” Dewey said. “Your conduct was just unacceptable.”
Fourteen people testified on behalf of Perez during the sentencing hearing, describing how he helped them and the city. They urged the judge to not impose prison time.
As family members cried in the courtroom, Perez acknowledged a “lapse of judgment” and asked Dewey for mercy.
“I will live with the consequences of my actions for my entire life,” he told the judge. “The city has suffered. My family has suffered. I have suffered. Each and every day, your honor, … for the rest of my life I will make amends and pursue forgiveness.”
Prosecutors said Perez accepted $40,000 in home improvements as a bribe from a contractor who wanted to keep a $2.4 million city contract. They said Perez also tried to extort $100,000 from a developer for a political ally.
Perez, who became Hartford’s first Latino mayor when he was elected in 2001, had faced up to 60 years in prison, but prosecutors asked for five years. He was convicted in June of five charges and resigned a week later. His lawyers plan to appeal the convictions.
“Notwithstanding the jury’s verdict in this case, Mr. Perez’s life has been defined by hard work, integrity and honesty,” his attorneys, Hope Seeley and Hubert Santos, wrote in a pre-sentencing report to Dewey. “(He) desperately wants to renew his commitment to service to his community and redeem his reputation as an honest, ethical person.”
Assistant State’s Attorney Michael Gailor said Perez showed no remorse for his actions, which he said appeared to be driven by a sense of entitlement and disregard for the example of other corrupt politicians before him who’d served prison time.
Perez was convicted of receiving a bribe, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion.
He was acquitted of a charge of fabricating evidence.
Corruption investigations have brought down several Connecticut politicians over the past few decades, though almost always in federal court rather than in state court like Perez.
Gov. John G. Rowland resigned in 2004 and served 10 months in federal prison after admitting he traded political access for vacations and repairs to his lakeside cottage.
Former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim served nearly seven years in prison on a corruption conviction and was released this summer from a halfway house. Former Waterbury Mayor Philip Giordano is serving a 37-year federal sentence for sexually abusing two young girls.
Perez was arrested in January 2009 on the bribe-receiving charge. Authorities said Perez paid only $20,000 for the $40,000 worth of renovations done in 2005 and 2006, but only after he was questioned by a grand jury investigating corruption in the city.
The contractor, Carlos Costa, also was charged. He told authorities he didn’t expect to get paid for the home improvements because that was the “cost of me doing business with the city,” according to an arrest warrant affidavit.
Perez was arrested again in September 2009, when state authorities charged him and former Hartford state Rep. Abraham Giles with attempted extortion and conspiracy for allegedly trying to extort $250,000 from a developer who wanted to buy city-owned property.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)