Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez's attorney does not dispute that a city contractor did thousands of dollars of renovations on the mayor's kitchen and bathroom, or that it took the mayor nearly two years to pay for the work.
But attorney Hubert Santos argued in court that the state has failed to prove Perez promised the contractor anything in return - so the bribery allegations shouldn't stick.
"We're talking about a corrupt agreement as the essence of bribery. People make political contributions to have access to politicians. They do fundraisers for access. They go the mayor's ball. All, many people, for access. That's not a crime."
Santos accused the state of prosecutorial misconduct for leaving out information that was favorable toward the mayor.
Judge Julia Dewey dismissed that allegation. She ruled that the benefits of a bribe don't have to be explicit, they can be implied. She refused the motion to drop the criminal charges before trial.
This case stems from renovations at Mayor Perez's home by city contractor Carlos Costa in 2005. When state investigators first asked Perez about the work, he said he had already paid for it and could produce a cancelled check. That same day, the mayor went to a bank to get a loan for the work, prosecutors say. Perez eventually paid the contractor $20,000, though the state says the work was worth double that.
Perez has apologized for hiring a city contractor in his home, but he denies any criminal wrong doing.
The mayor sat silently during the hearing, only passing a handwritten note to his attorney while the prosecutor spoke. Perez and his wife did not address reporters as they left the courthouse. His attorney Hubert Santos said they still expect a not guilty verdict.
"The opening salvo has been made, and now we look forward to a trial and vindication."
Jury selection for the trial will begin September 9.