Tuesday, May 11, 2010
EVE OF THE TRIAL, COURANT CRANKS UP THE HEAT AND SOME OF MY THOUGHTS
Tomorrow the dark cloud hanging over Hartford will become even darker, the Perez corruption trial testimony begins.
The Hartford Courant seemed to come out swinging tonight with both an editorial calling for Perez to step down as well as a call for the Council to reject his proposed budget and it's increases. You can read the editorial here.
The Courant also is running an on-line poll regarding whether Perez should stay or go. You can go to the poll and cast your vote by clicking here. Not surprisingly, as of the time of writing this entry, the numbers were over whelming in favor of the "needs to go" column, 83.5% said he should go, 16.6% said he should stay. Not scientific, but none the less interesting.
This editorial and poll seem to be in contrast to the Courant article over the weekend which, in my opinion, seemed to trivialize the scope and depth of the entire investigation.
I spoke with many people who were concerned after reading that article, and my question to them was "how many felony charges would you like before it matters?". In most towns, one charge of corruption would be enough to start the outcry for a corrupt politicians resignation.
Apparently in Hartford it takes more than five felony charges for corruption to be taken seriously. Possibly the two reporters from the Courant who were there at the beginning of the probe, Jeff Cohen and Dan Goren, might have given a different overview of the investigation if they were still at the Courant.
I did ask someone in the know about the investigation why certain aspects did seem to be left out, as the Courant article suggested. The answer was that the State wasn't on a fishing expedition. They were going with the solid charges that were a definite violation of the public's trust.
One of my questions was an example of what I thought was a glaring criminal violation and a larceny from the taxpayers of Hartford. Remember back to the revelation that Perez and Abe Giles had apparently cooked up a scheme to clean out Giles's warehouse on Windsor Street. When they instructed a city employee to send a few Public Works dump trucks to the warehouse, the employee balked and reminded them that inspectors from the State were nosing around.
They then came up with the brainstorm to bring in large construction dumpsters to clean out the warehouse and bill the dumpsters to the city. Only after the State's Attorney's investigators caught wind of it was Giles actually billed for the dumpsters.
That seemed a pretty clear cut issue, but it wasn't part of the final charges.
Another issue was the allegation by Hartford's former Tax Collector that Perez had committed "illegal activity". In an e-mail that I obtained through an FOI request, Tax Collector Donald Lefevere had accused Perez of illegal activity after Perez collected an overdue tax payment from a Maple Avenue business. In collecting the payment, Perez "waived" several thousand dollars of interest and penalties for the business owner and an apparent Perez campaign donor.
There are many other examples, but I think you get the point.
I think the most interesting thing about the pending trial though is the first witness the State is planning to call. I would think that the order of progression for the jurors would have been to start off slow and layout how government bidding and the process starts so they would understand the allegations.
Instead, the State is apparently going to call the potential "smoking gun" as witness number one. Carlos Costa has been told to be ready for the witness stand at 10:30am. Is it possible that Costa will testify and make the whole situation clear that reasonable doubt will be gone on the first day?
Is it possible that Perez's old buddy will lay out a scheme and conversations where the dirty deal was cut? Will Carlos tell the story how Perez laid out the "one hand washes the other" conversations? You want Park Street renovations, I want kitchen renovations, lets make a deal buddy.
Maybe Carlos will reveal the frantic phone call from the Mayor's cell right after Inspector Sullivan left the freshly renovated Perez homestead. Maybe Carlos will detail how the Mayor told him to make up a phony invoice for the renovations because the State was onto their scheme. I think they call that fabricating evidence.
You might ask how we would know that the call came from the cellphone? It's clear, after Inspector Sullivan was pulling out of the driveway, Eddie was jumping in his car to head to the Hartford Federal Credit Union to apply for a loan to now cover the "quid-pro-quo" renovations for the "Dark Emperor's" granite counter tops.
And that is just witness number one. Those 12,000 e-mails that the Perez Defense team seemed to be worried about should prove interesting. And lets not forget Abe Giles, you never know what is going to come out of his mouth. The only way to be sure about him is with a roll of duct tape to keep his mouth shut.
It could be over quick, or it could be a very interesting several weeks.