The man who once worked in Hartford schools construction and now works as an undercover operative for the FBI took the stand in a Louisiana public corruption probe yesterday. As WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports from New Orleans, the news that the man was working for the government has taken some Hartford people by surprise.
William Myles took the stand Thursday for the second time this year. And again, just as he did in an earlier public corruption trial, Myles testified that he had witnessed corrupt activity in Hartford city government, taped it, and given it to the FBI.
In his testimony, he said, quote, “A lot of people tried to get us to do things that were illegal and we didn't do it.” He went on to say that then Mayor Eddie Perez and other politicians came to him looking for jobs and contracts.
The news that this former Hartford businessman had spent the past five years working undercover for the government and getting paid over half a million dollars to do it shocked former city councilman Steve Harris. He remembered Myles as just a good guy helping minority contractors.
“You know, I guess I have this TV kind of vision of what an FBI, undercover guy, operative is supposed to look like and act like. I'm shocked. I'm just surprised. Because I never saw that side of William. You know? Never felt that side of him. Sometimes you could be around people and you kind of get the sense that they're trying to get something. And, you know, alarms go up. But that was never the case with me in my limited dealings with William.”
Myles's job in Louisiana was to pose as a corrupt businessman selling a fake garbage can cleaning company to small town politicians. The federal government indicted several public officials. The latest to stand trial is Tommy Nelson, former mayor of New Roads, Louisiana. He is facing charges that he used his public office for $22,000 in personal gain.
In that earlier trial, defense attorneys argued that Myles entrapped their clients – that he pressured them to commit a crime. On Thursday, Myles told the court this: “We do not pull innocent people into corrupt activity.”
He is expected back on the stand next week.
For WNPR, I'm Jeff Cohen in New Orleans.