Mayor Eddie A. Perez was found guilty this morning on five of six charges, including bribery and first-degree larceny by extortion, a felony.
"I'm extremely disappointed in the verdict," Perez said as he left the courthouse. "I plan to appeal."
When asked if he would resign, he said there would be an announcement at 2 p.m. today.
He was asked if he had anything to say to the community, and he said "yes we can" in Spanish.
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10. After the verdict was read, Maria Perez broke down, weeping uncontrollably. She collapsed on the center aisle of the gallery, screaming "He's a good man, he's a good man!" as dozens of supporters surrounded her. Marshals cleared the courtroom, and medics and firefighters responded to the courthouse to treat her. After being treated, she was escorted out of the courthouse by a back door, avoiding the media gathered in front of the building.
Susan McMullen, the mayor's chief of staff, said through tears: "It's a tragedy for the city. I still remain fully convinced the mayor is innocent. I'm sorry the jury didn't see the truth."
As for Perez's staff, she said, "We fully expect them to do their jobs as they do every day."
Defense lawyers Hubert Santos and Hope Seeley are expected to appeal.
There were chants of "This isn't over" from the mayor's camp.
Perez was charged with receiving a bribe, fabricating evidence, accessory to the fabrication of evidence, conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion in the trial that began May 12. The only charge Perez was not convicted of is fabricating evidence.
The maximum sentence Perez could receive is 55 years. On the individual charges, the maximum sentences are up to 10 years for receiving a bribe; up to 5 years for fabricating evidence; up to 5 years for accessory to fabrication; up to 5 years for conspiracy to fabricate evidence; up to 20 years for conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny; and up to 20 years for criminal attempt to commit larceny.
Each of the five counts carries a minimum of one year in jail.
Chief State's Attorney Kevin Kane, who initiated the corruption case against the mayor, said "The jury saw the evidence the way we did." Noting that federal law officers have prosecuted most of the previous corruption cases in the last decade, Kane said "I think the state should be in the business of prosecuting corruption cases, and we will be doing it."
Kane said it was a sad day for Hartford.
"The city of Hartford is a very good city. There are a lot of good people in it," he said. "Hopefully, they'll go forward in a positive way."
Veteran criminal attorneys who watched the case said it would have been very difficult for the mayor to overcome lies that Perez told to Inspector Michael Sullivan, namely that he had already paid city contractor Carlos Costa for remodeling work on his house when he hadn't, and claiming he never saw an e-mail from a developer saying Perez political ally Abraham Giles was demanding a $100,000 payoff to leave a parking lot the developer wanted to buy.
Criminal defense lawyer Michael Georgetti said he thought Perez was hurt by his decision not to testify.
"If he had gotten on the stand and given a believable explanation, I think it would have caused the average juror concern (about his guilt)," Georgetti said. "I think jurors want to hear from politicians and public officials."
In final arguments the this week the prosecutor said that the mayor abused his power and hurt the people of Hartford by taking a bribe in the form of free home remodeling work and trying to extort a payoff on behalf of a political ally, the prosecutor said in his final argument Wednesday in the mayor's corruption case.
Santos acknowledged that the mayor showed bad judgment in some instances, lied to an investigator, and was distracted by his wife's illness, but maintained that there was no corrupt agreement with the city contractor who did the home renovations, and no attempt to facilitate a payoff to North End politician Abraham Giles.
A six-member jury began deliberating late Wednesday afternoon and completed a full day yesterday.
Santos, in his closing remarks, did not revisit defense testimony that the mayor might have dyslexia and missed an e-mail sent to him by developer Joseph Citino saying that Giles was demanding a $100,000 payoff.
Santos did contend that Perez doesn't see all his e-mails.
"What's the bottom line -- is Mayor Eddie Perez a crook? No. There's not too many crooks showing up every day at city hall, working for the betterment of the people of the city of Hartford," Santos said.
Prosecutor Michael Gailor told the jury that the mayor intentionally abused his position for his own financial gain.
"Ladies and gentleman, the loser in this case is the city of Hartford," Gailor told the jury.
The prosecutor said that the mayor accepted deeply discounted work on his home from Costa, who Gailor said needed the mayor's help in holding onto a $5.3 million contract to reconstruct Park Street -- a job plagued by delays and shoddy work.
"For that $40,000 investment in the mayor's house, Mr. Costa made $2.4 million," said Gailor, referring to the public money that Costa collected from the Park Street project after the mayor allegedly took steps in May 2006 to reverse an effort by other city officials to fire Costa from the job.
The prosecutor cited testimony from Costa and other state witnesses that the mayor assigned Charles Crocini, director of capital projects in the mayor's office, to run interference for Costa and to try to settle $1.7 million in claims that Costa was making for extra payments, beyond the contract price, even though public works officials and an expert consultant said that most of the claims lacked merit.
And Gailor said the mayor was complicit in Giles' demand for a $100,000 payment from Citino, the developer, to vacate a parking lot on land that Citino wanted to buy for a shopping and condominium complex.
The mayor wanted Giles taken care of because the longtime ward heeler had delivered crucial political support to the mayor in a divided North End political district in 2007, Gailor said.
Santos presented a different interpretation of the events. He said that Costa was a close family friend of Perez and his wife, Maria. He noted that Costa had testified that he wanted access to the mayor.
"Access is not an element of the crime of bribe-receiving, ladies and gentlemen," Santos said.
"Carlos Costa already had access to the mayor. That's not enough," said Santos, adding that people make political contributions for precisely that reason.
Costa, said Santos, was kept on the Park Street reconstruction job because it would have been far more expensive to fire him, in terms of further delays and the potential of a lawsuit by Costa.
Santos said that Maria Perez's illness distracted the mayor, but he still intended to pay Costa for the home renovation work.
Perez is accused of lying to investigators about paying for the home renovations, saying he'd settled the bill for the roughly $40,000 worth of work in early 2006. After being confronted by Inspector Michael Sullivan on June 27, 2007, Perez obtained a second mortgage and paid $20,000 to Costa the following month, two years after the work was done. Costa initially presented Perez with a bill of about $28,000 but discarded it after Perez balked at the price.
Santos said the mayor lied because he was embarrassed to admit to Corporation Counsel John Rose, who was present during the meeting with Sullivan, that he hadn't paid for the home renovation work.
"And he lied because if this came out, it would be very politically embarrassing. This was the height of the political season in 2007. He didn't lie because he believed he had committed a crime," Santos said.
Santos attacked the credibility of Citino.
The prosecution "made a deal with the devil" in cultivating Citino, a convicted felon, as a key witness, Santos said.
He said that Perez didn't need Giles' help to succeed politically in Hartford. He said, in fact, that Giles was a liability because The Courant was writing about Giles' no-bid deals with the city.
Gailor said that Citino testified truthfully, and that his actions dealing with city hall showed he was committed to getting the project done, but feared financial loss when he was confronted with Giles' demand. The state contends that Giles never had a lease to operate a parking lot on the property, while the defense said that he had a license in the early 1990s and everyone at city hall assumed that he had a right to continue to operate the lot.
Citino testified that the mayor told him he had to "take care" of Giles or there would be no deal; and said that Giles boasted as he demanded a payoff that he had the mayor's support and could "make or break" the project.