BOSTON (WPRI) — Jury selection in the trial of Genoveva Andrade, the former chief of staff to then-Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia, started Monday.
Andrade — whom prosecutors have called a “consigliere” to the former mayor — is charged with participating in Correia’s scheme to extort marijuana vendors for bribes, and for lying to investigators about it. She is also charged with paying Correia a bribe in the form of a kickback from her own salary.
She faces four counts: extortion, extortion conspiracy, bribery and making false statements.
The extortion and conspiracy charges accuse her of participating in the shakedown of Charles Saliby, who sought to open a marijuana store next to his convenience store in Fall River in 2018.
Saliby testified at Correia’s trial earlier this year that Correia and Andrade came to his convenience store to discuss issuing him a letter of non-opposition and host community agreement for the dispensary, required by law.
Correia told Saliby he would need to pay a $250,000 cash bribe, according to Saliby’s testimony. It was ultimately negotiated down to $125,000.
When the two left the store, Saliby said Andrade looked at him and said, “You’re family now.”
Correia came back to the store at a later date to pick up a portion of the cash, Saliby said, testifying that he took $75,000 from the family safe and gave it to Correia — who was sitting in his city-issued SUV — in exchange for the documents.
Correia was convicted of extorting Saliby at his own jury trial earlier this year. The former mayor is scheduled to report to prison in January.
Two other extortion charges against Andrade related to the city connecting a water line on Kilburn Street were dropped prior to the trial because Correia was found not guilty of the same charges.
Andrade had originally pleaded guilty to all six charges against her last year in a deal with prosecutors, but Judge Douglas Woodlock rejected the deal in June at what would have been her sentencing hearing.
Woodlock disagreed with the lack of prison time included in the negotiated plea deal, and overturned the entire deal. Andrade and prosecutors were apparently unable to reach another agreement, so the case went to trial.
Andrade is accused of making three false statements about the case while being questioned by investigators in December 2018, according to her indictment.
“As Andrade then and there knew, she was involved in the extortion of [Saliby], she and Correia had extorted [Saliby] for $150,000 and Correia had a safe full of bribe money,” the indictment reads. “And the $22,800 she illegally gave Correia was not a loan.”
Monday morning, Woodlock gave a pool of potential jurors an overview of the case and asked them to fill out questionnaires and review witness lists to determine if they know any of them.
Much of his remarks were inaudible to those watching on Zoom, due to apparent technical difficulties. (The court has provided Zoom feeds of proceedings during the pandemic in order to limit the number of people in the courtroom.)
Neither the witness lists nor the jury questionnaire have been made public by the court.
Andrade’s team also filed two documents in the case Monday; in one, she asks the judge to sequester witnesses in order to prevent them from talking about the case or watching the Zoom feed.
In the second filing Andrade’s defense team laid out their thoughts on the instructions that will be given to jurors before they start deliberating. The document provides a window into her defense, including her claim that she never made any statement to investigators about a safe full of bribe money.
Regarding the extortion charges, Andrade’s lawyers are asking that the jury is instructed that “mere knowledge or presence” is not enough to prove extortion.
And on the bribery charge, where Andrade is accused of kicking back half her salary to Correia in order to get and keep her job, Andrade contends that the law “does not criminalize gratuities,” and the jury should be instructed that the government must prove that the money was given to Correia in exchange for an official act.
Jury selection is expected to continue on Tuesday.