Ex-Fall River mayor challenges fraud, corruption conviction
BOSTON (AP) — A once celebrated young Massachusetts mayor urged a court on Tuesday to throw out a jury’s verdict convicting him of fraud and corruption, accusing prosecutors of carrying out an “unfair smear campaign in the courtroom.”
Lawyers for former Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia said in court papers asking the judge to acquit him that the evidence against Correia was “remarkably shallow” and that his convictions cannot stand.
“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,” attorneys Daniel Marx and William Fick wrote. “Now, however, this Court must take a ‘hard look’ at the evidence… to ensure that justice is done.”
Correia’s lawyers are urging the judge to order a new trial if any of the counts against him stand. They say the fraud and corruption cases against him should have been tried separately.
Correia was found guilty in May of extortion, fraud and filing false tax returns after a trial that highlighted his swift rise and fall in Fall River, where he charmed voters at the age of 23 by portraying himself as a successful entrepreneur who could revive the struggling old mill city.
Corriea was convicted of stealing money from investors in his start-up to bankroll his lavish lifestyle and soliciting bribes from marijuana vendors who wanted to operate in the struggling mill city. Throughout the trial, prosecutors portrayed Correia as a serial liar, who they said misled voters in order to get elected just like they said he duped investors.
Prosecutors say Correia looted a bank account filled with investor money to pay for things like a helicopter tour of Newport, Rhode Island, a Mercedes, a $300 bottle of cologne and a $700 pair of Christian Louboutin shoes for his girlfriend.
Correia insisted he was innocent and attacked the charges as politically motivated. After leaving Boston’s federal courthouse after his conviction, Correia told reporters his “fight is not over” and predicted he would win on appeal.
Correia is scheduled to be sentenced in September.