BOSTON (WPRI) — Referring to his actions as “reprehensible corruption,” a federal judge on Tuesday sentenced former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia to six years in prison.
The hearing before U.S. District Court Judge Douglas Woodlock lasted two days and began with Woodlock tossing out some of the wire and tax fraud convictions against Correia, which he said didn’t meet the exact requirements of the federal statute.
But he minced no words about what he thought of the public corruption in city hall while Correia served as mayor.
“This is the most fundamentally corrosive crime that a community faces,” Woodlock said. “If we can’t trust each other, if we can’t trust our government, where are we?”
Correia, 29, said nothing as he left court. He also declined to speak when given the opportunity during the hearing, saying his attorneys advised him not to do so since they plan to appeal his conviction.
Family members wept in the gallery behind Correia while the judge spoke, while Correia looked straight ahead and appeared to express little emotion.
Watch: Correia enters court for sentencing (story continues below)
In May, Correia was convicted of shaking down prospective marijuana business owners for bribes, defrauding investors in his now-defunct app SnoOwl and lying to the IRS. The jury found him guilty of 21 of the 24 criminal counts he faced which included extortion, wire fraud, conspiracy, and filing false tax returns.
Woodlock dismissed six of the wire fraud counts on Monday because he said prosecutors did not show at trial that they included interstate communications, a requirement of the federal wire fraud statute. He also overturned two of the four tax fraud counts. The prosecution can appeal the acquittals since the judge reversed a jury verdict.
At sentencing, prosecutors sought a term of 11 years in prison out of a maximum 20, while Correia and his attorneys asked for a three-year term. The federal sentencing guidelines, based on a complicated set of factors, were 12 to 13 years in prison.
Woodlock landed roughly in the middle at six, remarking on Correia’s lack of remorse as he handed down his punishment. He referred to the former mayor as “someone who has not demonstrated that he is concerned about anyone other than himself.”
During arguments from both sides Tuesday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer said the corruption was “pervasive,” especially since Correia solicited bribes even after he knew he was under federal investigation.
“That is the height of chutzpah,” Hafer said. “Fall River under Jasiel Correia was like Atlantic City under prohibition, in terms of the crudeness of the corruption.”
He said a long prison sentence could serve as a deterrent, and said Correia’s crimes were worse than that of Sal DiMasi, the former Massachusetts House speaker convicted of corruption charges in 2011.
One of Correia’s new attorneys, William Fick, disagreed. He asked for three years in prison, but said even a small amount of prison time would suffice.
“There’s little that I’ve encountered in my life that extinguishes hubris than a day in federal prison,” Fick said. “Going to federal prison, period, is a powerful, powerful hubris-retardant.”
Correia hired Fick and his law partner Daniel Marx after his conviction, and sought to remove his trial lawyer Kevin Reddington from the case. Woodlock denied the motion to remove Reddington, so he remained at the defense table throughout the sentencing hearing but did not speak. (Correia also briefly claimed ineffective counsel by Reddington in a footnote of a document, but withdrew that claim on Monday.)
“That is indicative of a desire to have a re-do,” Woodlock said.
Woodlock took issue with some of the public comments that Correia has made, including a claim to reporters after his conviction that he had been offered a plea deal but turned it down. He asked Correia’s defense attorneys if there had actually been a plea offer, and they confirmed there had not.
Correia on that day also declared he would be “vindicated” and that “the truth will come out.”
The judge said Correia has shown no remorse, or even recognition of the crimes he committed. Fick countered that he had advised Correia not to speak because of his right to appeal the case.
The judge has not yet given Correia a date to report to prison.
After serving his sentence, Correia will be under supervised release for three years. He is also expected to pay forfeiture for ill-gotten gains, as well as restitution to the investors he defrauded.
Those amounts are still being calculated due to Woodlock’s acquittals, but prosecutors said Tuesday the forfeiture amount they calculated — upwards of $566,000 — should remain in place regardless of the counts that were dismissed.
It’s unclear if the investors connected to the dismissed charges will still be entitled to any restitution.
Correia was mayor of Fall River for four years starting in January 2016. He was first arrested in October 2018 following an indictment on the SnoOwl fraud charges, and refused to resign from office.
He was recalled by a majority of Fall River voters and re-elected by a plurality in the same night in 2019, then arrested again in September for the cannabis extortion side of the case, which was directly connected to city hall. He lost re-election in November 2019 to Mayor Paul Coogan.
At the same time their former mayor was being sentenced to prison, Fall River voters went to the polls Tuesday to pick the next mayor in a preliminary election. The top two vote-getters will go on to the general election in November.