Attorneys for former Mayor Eddie A. Perez on Friday filed what is expected to be their final brief in the mayor's appeal of his criminal convictions before the case goes before a judge.
The attorneys repeated their argument that Perez's two criminal cases — one involving bribery and the other extortion — should not have been consolidated into one trial. They also said his convictions should be reversed and that he should get two new, separate trials.
The attorneys made similar arguments in a brief filed in January.
Perez was found guilty in June 2010 of receiving a bribe, being an accessory to the fabrication of evidence, of conspiracy to fabricate evidence, conspiracy to commit first-degree larceny by extortion and criminal attempt to commit first-degree larceny by extortion. He was sentenced in September of that year to three years in prison.
Perez, who has been free on bond, resigned a week after the convictions.
His attorneys, Hubert Santos and Hope Seeley, argued in the brief filed Friday that joining the two cases was "improper" and "resulted in substantial prejudice."
"While the evidence in each case may not have overlapped, as the state indicated in its closing argument, the concept of political corruption was at the core of each case," the attorneys wrote. "The state knew that it intended to introduce 'other bad act' evidence with regard to the extortion case, further complicating the factual scenarios.
"The parallel themes of the two cases increased the risk that jurors would improperly consider the evidence from one case to determine that Mr. Perez was guilty in the other."
Quoting from the case of State v. Payne, the attorneys noted that "when the cases are not of the same character, the argument for [joining them] is far less compelling because the state must 'prove each offense with separate evidence and witnesses, [thus] eliminat[ing] any real savings in time or efficiency which might otherwise be provided by a single trial.'"
The lawyers also wrote that the two cases were "not discrete and easily distinguishable" and that the cases were too lengthy and complex to be joined together.
"The underlying conduct related to the charged offenses in this case spanned several years, and it took the state five weeks, 38 witnesses and 114 exhibits to explain the events leading to the charges," they said in the brief. "The trial court's error in joining the cases and its subsequent failure to sever the cases upon each request of the defendant was an abuse of discretion given the complexity of the factual scenarios, which were neither discrete nor easily distinguishable, and no jury instruction could cure the error."
The attorneys have argued previously in court filings that Perez was hindered because he was denied the right to testify in the bribery case while remaining silent in the extortion case.
They again touched on that point Friday, noting that Perez's failure to tell the truth to Inspector Michael Sullivan in the bribery case "tipped the scale" in the state's favor for the extortion case.
"Mr. Perez's failure to be truthful to Inspector Sullivan regarding whether he paid for the home improvements inevitably had a prejudicial impact on the jury's consideration of the extortion charges," the lawyers wrote. "The fact that Mr. Perez lied to a law enforcement official in the bribery matter no doubt caused the jury to reject his statement to Sullivan regarding the extortion count."
They added: "It is the cumulative impact of the two cases, without an explanation from Mr. Perez concerning his lie to Sullivan, which tipped the scale decidedly in the state's favor."
Prosecutors had charged that Perez accepted discounted home-improvement work from a city contractor, Carlos Costa, who they said needed Perez's help to hold onto a $5.3 million contract to reconstruct Park Street, a job mired in problems.
Costa and other witnesses testified during the four-week trial that Perez assigned Charles Crocini, director of capital projects in the mayor's office, to run interference for Costa and try to settle $1.7 million in claims from Costa for extra payments beyond the contract price, even though public works officials and an expert consultant said that most of the claims lacked merit.
The prosecution also asserted that Perez wanted North End politician Abraham Giles to be paid to vacate a parking lot on a sliver of land crucial to a developer's plans for a condominium and shopping center.
A hearing will be scheduled so a judge can rule on the appeal, officials said. A date for the hearing has not yet been set.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun