BOSTON (WPRI) — Calling the evidence in the case “remarkably shallow,” former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia’s new attorneys are asking a judge for an acquittal of his criminal convictions, or an entirely new trial.
Tuesday’s court filings shed new light on why Correia did not take the stand in his own defense at trial, despite telling reporters after his conviction that the “real truth will come out.”
The lawyers, Daniel Marx and William Fick, argue Correia’s right to testify in his own defense was “constrained” by the fact that two separate matters — defrauding investors in his app SnoOwl and a marijuana extortion scheme — were combined into one trial.
“If Mr. Correia had only been faced with the corruption charges, he could have testified as planned and denied asking for or receiving any bribes,” Marx and Fick wrote. “Mr. Correia could have told the jury, in no uncertain terms, that there was no ‘pay-to-play’ scheme in Fall River and that he treated all vendors fairly.”
The lawyers said he did not take the stand because he did not want to testify about the SnoOwl portion of the case, where he was accused of defrauding investors in his tech app. Prosecutors said he took their money and spent it on a lavish lifestyle including fancy trips with his girlfriend and a Mercedes Benz.
“If Mr. Correia took the stand, he would have faced extensive questions about his use of SnoOwl
funds,” the motion says. “That cross-examination would have spent considerable time detailing Mr. Correia’s appetite for tenderloin and clambakes, his stays at the Chatham Bars Inn and Chanler Inn, and his purchase of a Mercedes, all of which would have further prejudiced the jury against him.”
The lawyers also put forward a series of arguments about the case, claiming the prosecutors embarked on an “unfair smear campaign” against the former mayor. They cite the fact that prosecutors played a clip from Correia’s 2015 mayoral debate with incumbent Sam Sutter, where he said he would spend taxpayer dollars wisely, just as he did with his investors’ money.
The SnoOwl bank accounts were depleted by that time, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer said, and Correia had ripped off the investors by spending their money on strip clubs, travel, and luxury goods.
“He had no problem looking the voters in the eye and saying he spent this money wisely when he knew it wasn’t true,” Hafer said in his closing argument at trial.
“That irrelevant accusation, which would make criminals out of countless politicians, resembled a political attack ad, and it had no place in a criminal trial,” Correia’s attorneys argue in the new filing.
“When a precocious young mayor is accused of defrauding investors and extorting small business owners as well as betraying the voters and cheating on his taxes, the jury can be forgiven for jumping to the conclusion, without sufficient evidence, that he must be guilty,” the motion says.
The lawyers call the marijuana businessmen who testified that Correia shook them down for bribes “admitted criminals and liars” who “concocted false stories to implicate Mr. Correia and save themselves.”
Correia was convicted of extorting four businessmen for bribes in exchange for approval letters from the mayor’s office to open cannabis stores in Fall River. The marijuana vendors received immunity deals in exchange for their cooperation.
The U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment on the new motion, which was filed in District Court before Judge Douglas Woodlock, who presided over the trial.
If Woodlock denies the motion, Correia is expected to appeal the case to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston.
Correia is currently out on bail with an ankle monitor, awaiting his sentencing in September. He is reportedly getting married next month.