FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) — Politicians past and present in Fall River tell 12 News a dark cloud over the city was lifted Friday when a jury found former Mayor Jasiel Correia guilty of fraud, extortion and conspiracy.
Correia was convicted of 21 of the 24 criminal counts he faced, which included nine counts of wire fraud and four counts each of extortion, extortion conspiracy and filing false tax returns. He was acquitted of three individual counts of bribery, extortion and conspiracy.
Paul Coogan, the current mayor of Fall River who took over after Correia stepped down, said while he’s relieved with the jury’s verdict, Correia’s conviction is no reason to celebrate.
“This isn’t good for anybody,” he said, adding that the arrests, recall election and trial were difficult for the entire city to go through.
“We have to work together with local officials and put the focus on what’s better for the community,” he added. “That chapter is gone and we have to move Fall River forward.”
Cliff Ponte, president of the Fall River City Council, said he hopes the city never has to go through anything like this ever again.
“I’m looking forward to the day we no longer have to talk about this and we are moving on as a community,” he said.
Sam Sutter, who served as mayor prior to Correia and was unseated in the 2014 election, said he wasn’t surprised by his successor’s conviction.
“[He] goes down as one of the most corrupt mayors in the history of America,” Sutter said. “I just hope people don’t write off Fall River. I think this is something the leaders of the city have to get past.”
Gail Culpa, one of Correia’s former constituents, tells 12 News she believes he got what he deserved.
“I’ll tell you right now, for him to do this for the people of Fall River, it’s sad,” Culpa said. “We really believed he was going to make a difference and he didn’t.”
Correia is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 20. Until then, he will remain released on bail, however, he is required to wear an ankle monitor.
Coogan said for Correia especially, it’s going to be a long summer.
“He’s going to have to think about this every day and figure out where he is going to end up,” Coogan said.
Ponte said this trial sends a clear message to any current or future politicians, which is if you break your oath of office, you will have to answer for your crimes.