BOSTON (WPRI) — The jury in the corruption trial of former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia will return to federal court on Thursday for its third day of deliberations.
The jurors left the courthouse around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. They’ve been deliberating for two full days over the 24 criminal counts against Correia which include extortion, bribery and wire fraud.
Assistant Dean Andy Horwitz, the director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Roger Williams University Law School and a former public defender, said it’s not surprising that a jury would take more than two days to consider 24 counts. The jurors must come to a unanimous verdict on each of the counts.
“I would think they are probably just slowly and methodically going through a lot of evidence on a lot of counts,” Horwitz told 12 News. “You’re talking about 24 counts here, and very complicated stuff. … I don’t think we’re anywhere near the stage yet where I would begin to speculate that this is a jury that’s having trouble reaching unanimity.”
Correia, 29, is accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars from investors in his startup company, accepting bribes from prospective marijuana business owners, and filing false tax returns.
Prosecutors say he used the investors’ money to fund a “lavish lifestyle,” spending it on things like a Mercedes, designer clothes, and adult entertainment.
Correia denies the allegations. His defense team told the jury that while his client may have made mistakes, his spending decisions stemmed from naiveté, not criminal intent. He outright denies taking any bribes.
Correia did not take the stand during the trial, and the judge told the jury they could not take that into consideration, since he is presumed innocent and has a right not to testify.
“There are to draw no inference whatsoever from the fact that the defendant didn’t testify. That’s how they’re instructed,” Horwitz said. “It’s hard to imagine that in real life most people actually behave that way. People want to hear from the defendant, they assume that the defendant has something to say.”
The omission of other witnesses, however, is fair game for consideration by jurors.
Correia’s former chief of staff Genoveva Andrade did not testify, even though one of the counts against the former mayor is an allegation that he took a bribe from her in a salary kickback scheme. She was also present at some of the events described by other witnesses, but was not called to the stand to corroborate the events.
“They’re entitled to draw whatever reasonable inferences the presence or absence of evidence or of witnesses suggest,” Horwitz said. He said this is commonly called the “missing witness.”
According to the judge’s instructions, the jurors must find intent to defraud in each of the nine wire fraud counts. If Correia believed he was making honest representations to the investors in “good faith,” then that would be a full defense for wire fraud, according to the instructions.
The prosecutors claim Correia made misrepresentations to the investors by telling them he had successfully developed and sold a prior app, and that investor money would be used to develop the SnoOwl app.