Speaking from the bench to Correia, who was accompanied to court by his wife, parents and other relatives, Woodlock said he was confident the extortion convictions would stand. However, he also sharply questioned federal prosecutors about certain evidence cited for wire fraud and tax filing convictions.
Woodlock has scheduled the hearing to resume at around 1:30 p.m. and is also asking the defense to provide further support for his arguments that Correia’s convictions were unfair and unsupported by the evidence.
About 30 people were in the courtroom at the start of the hearing, and 340 more were following Correia’s plight on Zoom. He gained national attention when he was elected mayor at age 24.
Prosecutors are urging Woodlock to sentence Correia to 11 years in prison, while defense attorneys recommend a three-year prison sentence, according to court documents.
Correia, now 29, a Democrat who served as mayor of Fall River from 2016 to 2019, was convicted in May.
âBetrayal of people who saw him as family, widespread lying, cheating, theft and the passing of blame, and gross breaches of public trust should be punished with a sentence that completely repudiates the heinous conduct of the ‘accused and dissuades both this accused and others like him from starting over,’ Deputy US Prosecutors Zachary Hafer and David Tobin wrote in a sentencing memorandum to the court.
But Correia’s attorney, William Fick, wrote in court documents that Correia “cannot be defined solely as a crooked politician or a” thief, “and is also a grandson, a son, a brother, a cousin, friend and devoted husband. “
He described Correia as “a child of struggling and precocious immigrants,” whose “achievements as mayor have conferred broad benefits on the voters and on the city itself. None of this excuses offensive driving, but it does provide critical context. Still in his twenties, Mr. Correia has great potential to learn from this chapter of his life, make amends, meet his financial obligations, and contribute constructively to his family and community in the years to come.
Correia was convicted of demanding bribes, ranging from $ 25,000 to $ 250,000, from four businessmen who needed her consent to open marijuana dispensaries and of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars to investors in SnoOwl, a smartphone app he helped create in 2013 while attending Providence College.
In addition to 11 years in prison, prosecutors are also asking for 24 months of supervised release, $ 20,473 in restitution to the IRS, $ 566,740 in forfeiture and $ 298,190 in restitution from five investors who lost money qu ‘they invested in SnoOwl.
Prosecutors said Correia showed no remorse for his crimes, noting that after his conviction Correia continued to proclaim his innocence, telling reporters after his conviction that “Unfortunately, the criminal justice system has failed us. today, but our fight is not over. “
He said that in the end he would be justified and “eventually the real truth will come out.”
Correia, who did not testify at his trial, insisted that “there was no overwhelming evidence” and said he would appeal based on some of the judge’s instructions to the jury.
“And we will be justified and my future will be very long and great,” he said.
Recreational marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts in 2016, creating fierce competition for licenses to open lucrative dispensaries. The state required applicants to obtain a “no-objection” letter from the head of the local government, verifying that their proposed dispensaries complied with zoning laws. In Fall River, that meant Correia.
During the trial, jurors heard from 33 witnesses who recalled clandestine meetings, middlemen who paid while taking cuts for themselves and a rising political star who used stolen money to fund a style of lavish living while paying off student loans and credit card debt.
In conclusion, Assistant U.S. Attorney Zachary Hafer told jurors that Correia used money he extorted from marijuana entrepreneurs or defrauded investors to fund a lifestyle that included many. trips, frequent stays in expensive hotels, and extravagant shopping, including Rolexes bought in cash, down payments on Mercedes, $ 700 Christian Louboutin high heels for his girlfriend, sex toys and bottles of $ 300 cologne for itself.
Correia’s attorney, Kevin Reddington, described him as a creative and hardworking entrepreneur who believed he made the money he spent through SnoOwl.
During the trial, Fall River businessman Charles Saliby said that in July 2018 he placed a $ 75,000 cash bribe directly into Correia’s hands while they were sitting in the mayor’s SUV, outside the Saliby family store, Guimond Farms. Correia then handed him a letter of no objection verifying that the city was not opposing his plan to open a retail marijuana dispensary next to the store, Saliby said.
Saliby said Correia initially requested a payment of $ 250,000, but eventually agreed to $ 150,000, to be paid in two installments.
Three other businessmen vying for the dispensaries testified that they negotiated the payment of bribes to Correia through intermediaries close to the mayor. Correia then met them at town hall, restaurants and a cigar bar where he referred to bribes in the code while seeking assurance that they were “all good”, they declared.
During the first phase of the lawsuit, investors in SnoOwl said they would not have invested in the company if they had known Correia had lied when he told them he had already sold another application for a big profit. Rhode Island businessman Stephen Miller, who invested $ 70,000 in SnoOwl, said he thought Correia was “like a boy prodigy.”
Every seven investors, and two partners who founded SnoOwl with Correia, testified that he made a commitment not to earn a salary from the company until it became profitable. Investors said they lost their money.