ELYRIA — Lorain County Common Pleas Judge James Burge threw out charges of bribery and soliciting or receiving improper compensation against Lorain city worker David Velez on Wednesday after finding that prosecutors hadn’t presented enough evidence to move forward with their case against Velez.
But Burge left in place a misdemeanor charge of falsification that accuses Velez of trying to deceive Lorain police Lt. Mark Carpentiere.
Closing arguments on that charge are set for today.
“Two down, one to go,” Brent English, Velez’s attorney, said after the third day of Velez’s trial adjourned.
Police and prosecutors contend that while working as an inspector for the city, Velez refused to pass a rental property owned by David Fetter because there wasn’t heat in one of the bedrooms. Velez was accused of suggesting to Fetter that he use baseboard heating and offering to do the work.
“If you want to pass the inspection, I can do the work,” Velez allegedly told Fetter, who testified Monday.
Keith Waters, another city worker who was with Velez in January 2007, when he allegedly made the offer, has testified that while he heard Velez discuss baseboard heating with Fetter, he never heard his co-worker specifically offer to do the work.
Fetter reported Velez in fall 2009 after Velez failed the property for a second time because of a leaking hot water heater. Fetter contends that he felt Velez was going to attempt to get more money out of him to pass the inspection.
Assistant County Prosecutor Nick Hanek argued that Fetter’s testimony and other evidence was enough to justify leaving the charges against Velez in place.
But English said prosecutors didn’t have enough evidence to move forward with the charges that were dropped. The bribery charge was a felony and soliciting or receiving improper compensation was a misdemeanor.
“They didn’t prove the essential elements,” he said. “We don’t have a burden of proof in a criminal case. They do.”
Burge, who is hearing the case instead of a jury, will decide whether Velez will be convicted of the falsification charge.
When Carpentiere asked Velez about the invoice he allegedly prepared for Fetter detailing the $220 the landlord paid for the baseboard heating, Velez allegedly responded that he didn’t know if he had prepared the invoice and said that he may have done work at another property owned by Fetter.
English called several witnesses on Wednesday, including a Lorain city payroll clerk, who testified that Velez worked until 3:30 p.m. on the day he allegedly installed the baseboard heating. Fetter testified that the next day he went over to Velez’s house to pay him and collect the invoice.
Also testifying was Santos Plaza, who said he and Velez were working on the electrical system at a North Ridgeville gas station the day Fetter reported going to Velez’s house to pay him.
Velez’s ex-wife, Denise Velez, testified for the defense that she was at home that morning and had never seen Fetter. She also took issue with some of the descriptions Fetter made of the interior of her house, including the color of her kitchen cabinets.
Velez is on paid leave from his city job.
Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or email@example.com.