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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Defense team: Ex-Guaynabo mayor will appeal conviction

Former Guaynabo mayor Ángel Pérez Otero

By The Star Staff

Lawyers for former Guaynabo mayor Ángel Pérez Otero, who was convicted this week for engaging in a bribery scheme, will appeal the conviction on several grounds, including violations to his right to a fair jury and trial.

The lawyers, including Osvaldo Carlo, plan to appeal arguing that Pérez Otero’s right to a fair trial was violated because prosecutors released photos in which the convicted mayor appeared taking an envelope containing cash from contractor Oscar Santamaría.

The STAR learned that the defense will also appeal because of errors related to the theory of quid pro quo, or that Santamaría gave Pérez Otero the money for a city contract. Carlo told another media outlet that there were errors in the jury’s instructions.

According to the lawyers, Pérez Otero insisted on going to trial instead of negotiating a plea bargain because he did not instruct city employees to favor Santamaría’s Island Builders waste collection company.

A jury found Pérez Otero guilty of conspiracy, federal program bribery, and extortion late Wednesday.

According to court documents and evidence presented at trial, Pérez Otero, 52, was involved in a bribery conspiracy in which, from about late 2019 through May 2021, he accepted thousands of dollars in cash bribes on a regular basis from the owner of a construction company. In exchange for those payments, Pérez Otero agreed to obtain and retain contracts for the company and ensured that its invoices were promptly paid, prosecutors said.

Pérez Otero is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 8 and faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the extortion charge and 10 years in prison on the bribery charge. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Orocovis Mayor Jesús Colón Berlingeri lamented the verdict but said citizens should continue to trust public institutions.

“Ángel was a mayor we appreciated a lot, was president of the Mayors Federation,” he said.

Cataño Mayor Julio Alicea Vasallo said the verdict should serve as a lesson to all those who are blinded by power and greed that they must perform their work with ethical standards.

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