Defense Offers Reason Why Perez Lied About Payment
Mayor Eddie A. Perez lied to an investigator at a tape-recorded meeting in June 2007 about when he paid for remodeling work done by a city contractor because he didn't want the city's lawyer, who was also in the room, to know what had happened.

Defense attorney Hubert Santos gave that explanation to the judge Thursday in the mayor's bribery and evidence-fabrication case.

It was the first time that Corporation Counsel John Rose's presence has been publicly cited as a reason for why Perez falsely said that he had paid $20,000 to Carlos Costa 18 months earlier. The payment wasn't made until after the mayor was confronted in June 2007 about free or deeply discounted work done at his house in 2005.

The jury won't hear the explanation. The panel was excused so that Santos could argue that the prosecution knew this was the mayor's position yet left it out of the arrest warrant. Superior Court Judge Julia Dewey said there was no indication of bias and barred Santos from pursuing it.

The jury did get to hear the tape that Inspector Michael Sullivan made of that June 27, 2007, meeting in Perez's office, the tape that captures the mayor's jaunty voice at the beginning and his barely audible whisper after he was asked about the renovation work on his house.

"How did the mayor's demeanor change?'' prosecutor Michael Gailor asked Sullivan.

"He was noticeably nervous. He was shaking, sweating, fidgeting, he couldn't sit in his chair,'' Sullivan said.

The day before the meeting, Sullivan had received information that Costa, a man who needed the mayor's help on the troubled $5.3 million Park Street reconstruction job, had done renovation work on the mayor's house for free, and with none of the construction permits required by law.

Sullivan, a retired New Britain detective captain and now the supervisory inspector in the chief state's attorney's cold case unit, said the mayor was a suspect when he and Inspector Douglas Jowett went to Perez's office.

Rose was present, along with the mayor, and Sullivan testified that he didn't know specifically why Rose was there. Rose was not acting as Perez's personal lawyer.

The investigators and the mayor spoke about other investigative matters for the first hour and 20 minutes. The last 17 minutes dealt with the mayor's home renovations.

On the tape, captured by a digital recorder in Sullivan's shirt pocket and later converted to a compact disk with a transcript, Sullivan asks the mayor, "Did you ever have work done on your house by people who did work for the city?''

Perez said he did. He said Carlos Costa was the contractor and the cost was $20,000.

"Did you pay for it?''

The mayor said he did — a year and a half earlier.

The inspector asked if the mayor received a break on the cost of the job.

Perez said he had paid market price.

Sullivan asked if there was a contract and an invoice. The mayor said there was neither — that the work was done on the strength of a verbal agreement.

Sullivan asked if he could have a copy of the canceled check.