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 took part in a crooked parking lot deal.
Perez, who was charged in January with taking a bribe from a city contractor, and former state Rep. Abraham Giles turned themselves in at the Hartford state police barracks and were charged with attempted extortion and conspiracy.
The Democratic mayor denied the new allegations.
"Today I want the people of Hartford ... to know that truth is on my side," Perez told a cheering crowd of supporters at City Hall later in the day. "I committed no crime and I will be vindicated of all the charges that have been levied against me. And I want my day in court."
Giles, a fellow Democrat and Perez supporter, also denied wrongdoing. His attorney, John Kelly, said, "I have a very difficult time conceiving of how an 83-year-old man extorts anyone."
Two other people, a city councilwoman and a businessman, were also charged Wednesday in connection with 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.
Alleged extortion scheme
State prosecutors, citing the arrest warrants, accused Perez and Giles of taking part in a scheme to extort money from a person who was seeking to develop properties on Main Street.
Giles was paying the city $500 a month to use one of those properties as a parking lot and demanded $250,000 from the developer to vacate it, prosecutors said. He later lowered the amount to $100,000, prosecutors said.
The mayor "allegedly made the satisfaction of Mr. Giles" a condition for allowing the development to proceed, but the agreement was never completed, authorities said in news release.
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 Perez didn't pay for the work until after investigators questioned him about it.
Perez also denies those allegations. A trial is tentatively set to begin in November.
His defense lawyer, Hubert Santos, asked a judge on 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. Santos said Perez cannot get a fair trial now.
The contractor, Carlos Costa, was arrested earlier this year.
Also charged Wednesday were city Councilwoman Veronica Airey-Wilson, 56, and Carlos Lopez, a businessman who had contracts with the city to operate a parking garage.
Airey-Wilson was charged with fabricating evidence. Prosecutors said she provided falsified evidence that showed she paid for granite countertops installed in her home by Costa.
Airey-Wilson denied the allegations.
"I have always served with an immaculate record and my record has been impeccable and I am truly angered that they can bring these false charges," she said. "I've helped thousands of people in this city."
Lopez, 63, of Farmington, was charged with three counts of fraudulent voting. Prosecutors say he illegally voted in three Hartford elections between 2004 and 2007.
Perez, Giles, Airey-Wilson and Lopez were released on written promises to appear in Hartford Superior Court next Tuesday.