Indicted Mayor Correia to step aside, drop out of race

SE Mass

UPDATE: Correia sets resignation date, ends re-election bid »

FALL RIVER, Mass. (WPRI) – Amid mounting pressure, embattled Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia is planning to take a leave of absence and drop out of the race for re-election Tuesday, according to spokesperson George Regan.

Correia is expected to step aside from his daily mayoral duties on Tuesday, with plans to formally resign on January 1, near the end of his term.

Correia, a second-term Democrat, is slated to make the announcement at noon Tuesday at the under-construction Durfee High School site. The press release sent from public relations firm Regan Communications specifies that the mayor won’t be taking questions from reporters.

Correia was running in the Nov. 5 mayoral election after coming in a distant second to School Committee member Paul Coogan in a preliminary election last month.

His name is expected to still appear on the ballot since the deadline to withdraw from the race was Sept. 22.

“I think he’s making a smart decision,” Coogan said Monday night. “I would say the majority of the people, both in the recall and in the primary election, they’d like to see him move on to do something different. Because he didn’t do well in either one of those races. There was clearly a message sent.”

Council President Cliff Ponte, who per the city charter would take over as acting mayor in Correia’s absence, said he had not spoken to the mayor yet and would not comment further until after Tuesday’s announcement.

“I have no idea what the announcement is about, the mayor or his staff has not briefed me regarding this so I can properly inform other councilors,” Ponte said in a text message earlier in the day. “I will await the results of this announcement — just like you.”

Correia did not respond to a request for comment. Kevin Reddington, Correia’s defense attorney, also has not responded to a message.

The City Council attempted to oust Correia from office in September following his most recent federal indictment for allegedly extorting marijuana vendors, but Correia refused to step down. A judge recently denied the council’s request for a preliminary injunction to remove him from office.

Correia was recalled by a majority voters in March following his first federal indictment but was immediately re-elected on the same ballot by a plurality in a five-way race to replace him.

The first indictment, handed down last October, accused him of defrauding investors who put money into his app SnoOwl. He allegedly used the investors’ money to “fund his own lavish lifestyle, burgeoning political career, and the needs of his other business ventures,” according to prosecutors.

The second set of charges came down in September, accusing Correia of taking bribes from marijuana vendors in exchange for Correia writing a “letter of non-opposition” for the pot shops to open in Fall River, which is required by Massachusetts law.

Correia has denied all of the charges.

He was first elected mayor in 2015 at the age of 23.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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