Judge rejects plea deal in corruption case of former Correia chief of staff

SE Mass

BOSTON (WPRI) — The public corruption case of Genoveva Andrade went back to square one on Thursday after a federal judge rejected a plea deal she made with prosecutors that would’ve spared her jail time.

The unusual decision means Andrade, who was chief of staff to former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, remains charged with six federal crimes. She could potentially go to trial, or plead guilty again under a new agreement with the prosecution.

In December, Andrade pleaded guilty to six total counts of extortion, conspiracy, bribery and making false statements, admitting that she helped Correia in his scheme to shake down marijuana vendors for bribes in exchange for his approval of their proposed pot shops.

Under the negotiated plea deal, the agreed-upon sentence was 12 months of supervised release and a $10,000 fine. But Judge Douglas Woodlock rejected the deal during a sentencing hearing Thursday, saying Andrade should be incarcerated for her actions and suggesting she should pay restitution to the citizens of Fall River as well.

Woodlock did not suggest or impose a specific sentence, since he was only considering whether to accept or reject the terms of the plea deal. But he noted that the sentencing guidelines call for 70 to 87 months in prison.

He also noted in explaining his decision that Andrade lied to prosecutors after they gave her immunity at one point in the investigation. She ultimately lost the chance to have immunity from prosecution.

Andrade, who came to court in Boston with her husband and several other family members, began to cry as the judge began to speak about his concerns with the plea deal. She had prepared to address the court — which is common for defendants in sentencing hearings — but opted not to once it became clear the judge was leaning toward rejecting the deal.

She and her attorney Charles Rankin declined to comment on Woodlock’s decision, as did Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer.

It’s unclear what the U.S. Attorney’s office will opt to do next in the prosecution.

Correia, the primary target in the corruption case, was convicted by a jury last month of 21 counts including extortion, conspiracy and filing false tax returns. But he was acquitted of taking a kickback bribe from Andrade, a charge that Andrade had already admitted via her guilty plea.

Rankin suggested during the sentencing hearing that he wished he had tried the case once he saw that Correia was acquitted of that charge involving Andrade.

“There was a complicated relationship between Andrade and the mayor,” Rankin said. “He saw her and took advantage of her by requiring her to give half of her salary to him.”

“Why she acquiesced to that, I don’t know,” he added.

Andrade was not called to testify against Correia at trial, which may have contributed to the jury declining to convict him on that particular charge. But Correia was convicted of other charges involving Andrade, including extorting a bribe from a businessman named Charles Saliby.

Saliby testified that he, Correia and Andrade met at his Fall River convenience store to discuss opening a marijuana store and ultimately negotiated a bribe.

“You’re family now,” Andrade said, according to Saliby.

Prosecutors made reference to the “family” comment in a pre-sentencing memo, using a term typically reserved for mob cases.

“In essence, Andrade served as consigliere to the man who ran Fall River as an old-school, pay-to-play, corrupt city,” the memo said.

Still, prosecutors recommended against jail time, noting her lack of criminal history and decision to take responsibility for her actions by pleading guilty.

“Here, it should be noted that Andrade’s acceptance of responsibility stands in stark contrast to her co-defendant, who, after being found guilty by a jury of 21 out of 24 felony counts, defiantly stated that ‘the criminal justice system failed us today,’ and ‘eventually the real truth will come out,'” the memo said, referring to Correia.

Andrade’s pre-sentencing memo said she has devoted her life to helping others, and included numerous letters of support from family members, friends and colleagues.

“Ms. Andrade doesn’t need to go to trial and shouldn’t go to trial,” Rankin told the judge.

Correia is scheduled to be sentenced in September and faces up to 20 years in prison. He has hired a new high-end Boston law firm, Fick & Marx, for his appeal, according to documents filed Thursday with the court.

The 29-year-old Correia is currently out on bail with a GPS ankle monitor.

Full Coverage: Jasiel Correia Trial » | Timeline: Jasiel Correia Scandal »

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