By Associated Press
Saturday, June 19, 2010; A04
HARTFORD, CONN. -- A one-time gang leader who escaped an impoverished childhood to become Hartford's first Latino mayor was convicted Friday of five corruption charges, including taking a bribe and attempted extortion.
Eddie Perez (D), who had insisted on his innocence and vowed to clear his name, could face up to 60 years in prison, with each of the five counts carrying a minimum of one year in jail. The six-member Hartford Superior Court jury acquitted him of one count of tampering with evidence. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 10.
"I'm extremely disappointed," Perez said as he walked away from the courthouse. "I'm maintaining my innocence, and I plan to appeal." He later said he would step down as mayor while he pursued an appeal.
Perez was convicted of receiving a bribe, attempted first-degree larceny by extortion, accessory to evidence tampering and two conspiracy counts -- all felonies.
The trial focused on allegations that Perez accepted home improvements from a city contractor in return for keeping him on a lucrative $2.4 million construction project, and tried to extort a developer into paying $100,000 to a political ally.
The trial was the latest in a series of corruption cases over the past decade involving Connecticut politicians, most notably Gov. John G. Rowland (R), who resigned in 2004 and served 10 months in federal prison after admitting he traded political access for vacations and home repairs.
Pedro Segarra (D), Hartford City Council president, will take over for Perez and serve as acting mayor until the next election in November 2011, city officials said.