- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 3, 2009

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) | Mayor Eddie Perez on Wednesday surrendered to state police for the second time this year to face corruption charges, this time on allegations he and a former state lawmaker tried to extort money from a real estate developer.

Mr. Perez, who was charged in January with taking a bribe from a city contractor, and former state Rep. Abraham Giles surrendered at the Hartford state police barracks and were charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy.

Mr. Perez, a Democrat, vowed to remain in office and denied the allegations during a City Hall news conference that resembled a campaign rally.

“Today I want the people of Hartford … to know that truth is on my side,” Mr. Perez told a crowd of supporters, who cheered and chanted “Eddie, Eddie.”

“I committed no crime and I will be vindicated of all the charges that have been levied against me,” he said. “And I want my day in court.”

Prosecutors say Mr. Perez and Mr. Giles attempted to extort $250,000 from developer Joseph Citino, who wanted to purchase and develop city-owned property on Main Street that included a large, dilapidated building.

Mr. Giles leased a parking lot on the property from the city for $500 a month and subleased it to a parking company for $2,250 a month, according to an affidavit.

The mayor eventually arranged for Mr. Citino to pay Mr. Giles $100,000 as part of the sale, but the deal never went through, prosecutors say.

Mr. Giles, a fellow Democrat and Perez supporter who served in the legislature from 1972 to 1988, also denied wrongdoing.

“I have a very difficult time conceiving of how an 83-year-old man extorts anyone,” said John Kelly, his attorney.

Two other people, a City Council member and a businessman, also were charged Wednesday in the corruption probe that began nearly two years ago. State investigators and a judge acting as a grand jury have been looking into the parking lot deal and other possible corruption.

Mr. Perez, a one-time gang leader who turned his life around and is now in his third term as mayor, was charged in January with taking a bribe from a city contractor who renovated his home. Authorities say Mr. Perez didn’t pay for the work until after investigators questioned him about it. The contractor, Carlos Costa, was arrested earlier this year.

Mr. Perez also denies those allegations. A trial is tentatively set to begin in November.

His defense lawyer, Hubert Santos, filed a motion Wednesday to dismiss all the charges, saying authorities - by releasing details of Wednesday’s arrest - violated a court ruling that sealed the grand jury report. Mr. Santos said Mr. Perez cannot get a fair trial, and he will ask that next week’s jury selection be postponed.

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane declined to comment.

Also charged Wednesday were City Council member Veronica Airey-Wilson, 56, and Carlos Lopez, a businessman who had contracts with the city to operate a parking garage.

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