When the chief prosecutor for the city of Cleveland announced rape and kidnapping charges against Ariel Castro, he took pains to deliver a message.
The message from Victor Perez was that like Castro he, too, had roots in Puerto Rico.
He was the top law enforcer in Cleveland. The veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps and recipient of numerous military honors, including the USMC’s Good Conduct Medal, said in no uncertain terms that he did not want the horrible alleged actions of Ariel Castro to be linked to his ethnic community.
"As the chief prosecutor for the city of Cleveland, born and raised in Puerto Rico,” Perez said at the news conference where he announced the charges against Castro, “I want everyone to know that the acts of the defendant in the criminal case are not a reflection of the rest of the Puerto Rican community here or in Puerto Rico."
The man with a key role in the investigation of the kidnapping of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight became chief assistant prosecutor in 2006.
The city agency website says that Perez and his team “are charged with reviewing all potential cases with which they are presented to determine whether they should go forward in accordance with existing laws and ordinances.”
He has made a point of remaining active in Latino organizations throughout his career. He was a regional president for the Hispanic National Bar Association from 2001 to 2003, and is a member of the Ohio Hispanic Bar Association.
He also was the coordinator of Latin American Student Services at the University of Dayton.
The website profile of Perez said that he relishes mentoring roles, and works as an adjunct professor of law at Case Western Reserve University, his alma mater. At the University of Dayton, he was an instructor and coach for the Undergraduate Mock Trial Team.
Before joining the prosecutor’s office, Perez was assistant director of law for the Cleveland Department of Consumer Affairs where, the website said, he “investigated complaints from residents who felt they had been violated under the City’s consumer protection code.”
Perez received several honors during his student career, including three undergraduate honor societies and Student of the Year at Case Western Reserve University's School of Law.
On Thursday, Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty said he would present Ariel Castro’s case to the grand jury and may seek the death penalty.
Elizabeth Llorente can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/Liz_Llorente