BOSTON (WPRI) — In the latest twist in the corruption case against former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, a federal judge on Monday said he will issue a judgment of acquittal on eight of the 21 counts in which Correia was convicted by a jury earlier this year.
The acquittals are all related to Correia’s defunct tech app SnoOwl. The judge simultaneously made it clear he would not reverse the jury’s determination that Correia shook down marijuana vendors while mayor, which he referred to as the “core of this case.”
The ruling came during what was scheduled to be Correia’s sentencing hearing, four months after his conviction in May.
But prior to the sentencing, Judge Douglas Woodlock took up a motion to acquit that Correia filed over the summer.
Watch: Correia arrives at federal court for sentencing (story continues below)
After hours of dense arguments, Woodlock said prosecutors did not prove a key requirement for the federal wire fraud crime: that interstate wire communications were used.
Prosecutors scrambled to print out banking documents during a lunch break, showing that Correia cashed checks from investors in his tech app SnoOwl in Massachusetts, which were then processed by Rhode Island-based Citizens Bank.
But such details of the back-end interstate processing of the checks were not presented during the three-week trial before a jury earlier this year.
“There’s no such testimony here,” Woodlock said, referring to the record from the trial.
He tossed out six wire fraud charges related to checks given to Correia from David Cabeceiras, Mark Eisenberg, Victor Martinez and Stephen Miller.
Watch: Correia leaves federal court (story continues below)
All four men had invested in SnoOwl, believing their money was being used to develop the app. But prosecutors said Correia spent the money to fund a lavish lifestyle for himself and his then-girlfriend.
Woodlock also said he would acquit Correia on two counts of filing false tax returns in 2015. Two other tax-related counts are yet to be ruled on.
The judge declined to reverse the jury’s verdicts on a series of extortion and conspiracy charges, where Correia was found guilty of extorting bribes from marijuana vendors who wanted to open shops in Fall River.
Correia declined to comment when leaving court with family members including his wife, whom he married in between his conviction and sentencing.
Because this is an instance of a judge overturning part of a jury’s verdict, the government can appeal the decision to the U.S. 1st Circuit Court of Appeals. Prosecutors cannot appeal when a jury votes to acquit a defendant.
Prosecutors had asked for 11 years out of a maximum of 20 in prison, while Correia asked for three years in the case. It’s unclear what the effect of the new acquittals will have on the final sentence.
The hearing is set to continue Tuesday morning.
Tim White contributed to this report.